When Seoul architect Byoung-soo Cho set out to design his urban dream house, he turned to the city’s architectural history for inspiration. The result—–four overlapping boxes arranged around a courtyard—–is a peaceful enclave in the midst of the nonstop metropolis.
Architect Byoung Soo Cho’s Earth House is quite possibly one of the classiest dugouts ever built. Set amid peaceful woods and rice fields an hour east of Seoul, Korea, the subterranean structure consists of six tiny unadorned rooms (kitchen, library, two bedrooms, and a bathroom) and a 23-by-23-foot courtyard. Cho describes the house, dedicated to Korean poet Dong-joo Yoon, as a place for self-reflection. He says the concept goes back to his 1991 graduate thesis at Harvard, where he began exploring Taoist ideas about negative and positive space, and the question of just how much (or little) space we need in order to live comfortably. Sixteen years and several unsuccessful attempts at selling an underground house later, Cho finally decided to build one for himself. Earth House was completed in February 2009 on a lot down the road from Cho’s more conventional vacation home, the square-shaped Concrete Box House. He currently uses the Earth House for weekend gatherings and stargazing.