Korean architect Byoung Soo Cho has built an underground house outside Seoul. Called Earth House, it’s not as fancy as some iterations of the subterranean abode, drawing instead on Cho’s very unpretentious inspirations: Taoist minimalism and the utilitarianism of the silos, barns and sheds Cho has come to love as a professor at Montana State University. Arguably, the Korean House also reveals a love of big sky: the 23-foot square courtyard is really the crown jewel of the place, which consists of six tiny rooms built mainly of concrete and recycled wood.
The courtyard walls also pay homage to the trees that were razed to build the house: They include cross-sections of the felled trees. As they decay, Cho hopes they will sprout grass, at least symbolically returning the human construction to the cycles of nature.
The interiors also combine Japanese bathhouse aesthetics with agricultural inspiration. The minimalism is intense, but the house does avail itself of one of the chief benefits of underground construction — insulation — and the rooms are, visitors say, quite cozy.
Cho says he uses the house, which is near his Seoul residence, mostly for star-gazing and meditation.
+ Byoung Soo Cho
photos by Wooseop Hwang