In Korea, if the address of your destination includes the word ri, you can be assured that where you’re going is far from any bustling crowds. Ri, which means ‘village’ in Korean, are usually remote farming towns. According to the government’s administrative categorisation, the unit ri is reserved for the least populated areas of a province. ‘When I first arrived in Oseong, Daeheung-ri, 20 years ago, there were six houses and a total population of ten,’ recalls Jeon Hae Gap, an architect who specialises in repurposing rural pre-war buildings and villages. Jeon fell in love with Oseong’s picturesque scenery, where in the mornings fog can be seen rising from the reservoir against the backdrop of the dramatic Jongnamsan mountain. Shortly after his first visit, Jeon embarked on a 12-year-long journey that would culminate in Awon Museum & Hotel.
Awon Mansion offers 11 guest rooms in four buildings: Cheonjiin, Sarangchae, Anchae, and Byeolchae. The first building is Cheonjiin, which is a modern-style, Korean traditional building nicknamed ‘Manhyudang,’ meaning ‘a place of shelter for an escape from everything.’ It is closest to Mt. Jongnam, and contains shadows of the sky in the calmly flowing pond in front. Sitting on the open platform of Manhyudang, the cool, fresh breeze from the mountains blows perspiration away. Past Manhyudang’s Soswaemun on the right is Yeonhadang, which was the space for traditional scholars. Meaning ‘a place of fog and dusk,’ Yeonhadang is a traditional house that moved here from Jinju and has still preserved its original structure. After take a turn around Yeonhadang and go deeper inside, there is Seolhwadang, the main house. Finally, the detached house that connected to the main house is still a modern building of exposed concrete in the same manner of the museum. It is an alternative to supplement the inconvenience of living in a Korean traditional house, built lower than the eaves of Seolhwadang and Yeonhadang, which does not disturb the entire view. A novelty has something fresh, yet something aged also has the depth and the philosophy of history. How gorgeous is the effort in blending the two in harmony? Awon was filled with delicate mood of such pursuit and passion.
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