Hee Joon Lee
6 Courtyards 12 Units
At its most basic the courtyard is a void - a space enclosed on all sides by walls; in its simplest form, it comprises four walls around a square. The walls carve a defined space out of the indefinite expanse of the surroundings; if the walls are high enough the landscape disappears and only the vast expanse of the open sky above remains. Within the courtyard one thus has a sense of seclusion and intimacy, yet simultaneously of openness and exposure.
6 Courtyards 12 Units is a hotel complex proposed in the middle of an olive farm in Mirandela, Portugal. There are two types of hotel rooms: in the first type, one hotel unit has a courtyard; in the second type three hotel units share a courtyard. Rather than having a lobby or a restaurant, as a conventional hotel does, it is managed entirely by a smartphone application, which allows visitors to arrive and take possession of their rooms without ever meeting another person.
The courtyards are sunken patios, which introduce a moment of verticality at odds with the extreme flatness of the landscape. Most of the rooms are buried for two reasons: firstly, to hide them so that, from outside, their existence might not be suspected and, secondly, to occupy the minimum area of the land at ground level. The rooms have neither doors nor windows towards the landscape. Even the entrance door is hidden - a flight of steps (with no handrail projecting above the level of the ground) leads down to an opening at basement level. From without, the building remains mute.
These courtyards are not only spaces to look at, or devices for ventilation or gaining access to natural light, rather they function as a central outdoor room which connects all parts of the building, somewhat like the old ‘great hall’ of certain traditional farmhouses. One enters the building through the courtyard, and one must pass through it to move from one room to another. Around the courtyard, privacy within the rooms is achieved through level differences and depth of the opening. If a room needs more privacy, it is set back and raised above the patio level. The raised threshold can then be used as a bench, an intermediary moment between the isolation of the room and the absolute openness of the patio. While most rooms are located at basement level, rooms which need more privacy are located at ground level. The arrangement of rooms may appear arbitrary but it is in fact carefully orchestrated to prevent views directly from one room into another. Thus, while one has a background sense of the life going on in the surrounding spaces - voices in the courtyard, a light going off in a window - the hotel guest remains, in their own room, protected and alone.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2018
- B.Arch, Seoul National University, 2016