Snapshot

By Beth Broome

In a world that seems increasingly to value its privacy and the right to spread out, a striking home virtually straddles the divide between capitalism and communism, exemplifying an economy of means and a dedication to community.

Pixel House lies in the Heyri Art Valley, a planned artist community just south of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates North from South Korea. Organized around five hills, the development is overseen by architectural coordinators Junsung Kim and Jongkyu Kim, who preselected a team of architects for the project. The team included James Slade and Minsuk Cho, who were later chosen by a young family seeking to build their home in the valley.

The clients, who had been active in the Socialist party, wanted a house that reflected their political background: a simple, compact building that, rather than functioning as a private sanctuary, would take into account greater societal needs. Consisting of three phases (to date, only one has been realized), the residence was

A little house rises like a swell on a brick sea

The diminutive Pixel House practices economy on a number of levels. The interiors of the 900-square-foot home consist of Sheetrock, maple plywood, and a lively palette for the walls.

The diminutive Pixel House practices economy on a number of levels. The interiors of the 900-square-foot home consist of Sheetrock, maple plywood, and a lively palette for the walls.

designed to serve a secondary function as a children's day-care center while the family was gone during the day. Phases two and three involve separate buildings sited to form a courtyard open to the neighborhood— a move that activates the environment, inviting inclusions, rather than creating a barrier.

While the valley's master plan called for a continuous row of houses, Slade and Cho decided to set their home, which sits at the end of the row, apart from the resulting "wall." However, instead of placing an object on the field—and to avoid having the house appear simply as a fragment of the row—the architects integrated the building into the landscape. Using a sandy-colored concrete brick, Slade and Cho effectively wove the house into the fabric of the surrounding hardscape, creating the illusion of it rising out of the paved area. "Once we broke the rule of separating the house from the row," says Slade, "we wanted to really break it, and the project evolved into a hardscape bulge"—or, in Cho's more colorful choice of words, "a pimple emerging from the ground."

The brick, laid in an offset pattern over a waterproofed concrete shell, lends a pixelated appearance to the curved form. On a micro scale, the house mimics the larger development, which consists of a series of boxy structures stepped on a rolling topography. Pixel House stands apart from the neighboring residences, but it is not alienating: It asserts its individuality while blending into the landscape and engaging the community. ■

Reverb Reinvented.

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