A radical take on the glamping concept has been launched in South Korea, offering guests the experience of being within a natural setting while enjoying the comfort of architecturally-designed, self-contained living spaces arranged around a communal facility. This new ‘minimalist luxury’ resort – adjacent to the Seungju Country Club in Suncheon – consists of sixteen brightly-coloured living units with an associated reception/restaurant. Each unit offers guests approximately 50m² of living area, as well as two bedrooms and a kitchen and a bathroom manufactured as off-site units.
The project is located some 300 kilometres south of Seoul within lush cypress forests and enjoys distant views over the Korean Strait. Drawing diverse references from natural elements such as the site’s dramatic topography, pebbles and fireflies, the resort offers guests a direct and vivid connection with their natural surroundings. Careful orientation ensures that each unit is well-screened from surrounding units while offering guests dramatic views over Suncheon Ecological Bay. At night, the units – when illuminated from within – appear to form part of the forest’s natural organic layout.
Atelier Chang brings an innovative approach to the structural design of the glamping units. The light-weight steel frames, covered with an insulated tent-like fabric, create highly resilient structures which are capable of withstanding the region’s significant annual differences in climatic conditions. The resort includes three principal types of glamping unit; ‘Mountain’, ‘Cutent’ and ‘Firefly’, each of which has a distinctive plan and colour scheme. The striking restaurant/community facility forms the focal point of the resort. The restaurant and viewing terrace are screened by an elegant geometric arrangement of white steel louvres, mitigating solar ingress.
Key features of the project include:
• Light steel frames are covered with a bespoke fabric made by French manufacturer Serge Ferari . The material is weather and fire resistant and tensioned at the base of the frame to fit the shape of an individual unit
• Glazing elements are constructed from double layers of polycarbonate (for privacy), although glass can be used if required
• Plumbing and electricity infrastructure is connected to the mains supply although the structures can use natural resources (rain water harvesting and PVs)
• Foundations consist of concrete pillars with steel columns supporting the decking to which the structures are bolted.
The shell price of individual units (excluding kitchen and bathroom fit-out and furniture) is similar to the cost of a family car. However, unit rates for guests are around double the rate of a typical local hotel and closer to a 4 Star hotel room.
Soohyun Chang, Founder of Atelier Chang, comments: “We wanted guests to feel as if they are living deep in the forest – directly in touch with the natural environment rather than being disconnected from it, as is the case with many ‘destination’ resorts. The arrangement of the glamping structures is conceived so that all the individual guest units are in close proximity, whilst still partially hidden from one another by foliage. The trees act as natural privacy barriers and give a unique spatial character to each of the units. The resort design also incorporates individual terraces around – and between – glamping units that weave through the surrounding trees. These terraces help to strengthen the feeling among guests that they are immersed in nature, rather than simply being adjacent to it. It is a concept which allows guests to connect with the natural environment far beyond what they might expect to experience in a more conventional resort setting.”
The Suncheon resort – managed by SJCCglamping, a subsidiary of the Korean company POSCO, one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world – took three years to design and construct. In partnership with the contractor, Mind Glampers, Atelier Chang developed a new, patented technology to achieve both the comfort and lightness which the space and design concept demanded. This technology uses double layers of fabric with insulation between layers to keep the glamping units sustainable and viable in a climate where annual temperatures can range from as low as minus 20 degrees to as high as 40 degrees Celsius. The units – when properly maintained – are expected to have a lifespan of at least 10-15 years.
YoungKwan Kim of Mind Glampers says: “We wanted to take the glamping concept to the next level and bring guests even closer to nature without having to compromise on comfort and pure luxury. This, in turn, challenged our design approach and use of materials and led us to experiment and develop new ways of building minimal structures that go beyond what, until recently, has been feasible.”
The steel construction of the restaurant complements the design and assembly of the glamping units. The use of lightweight materials to filter and refine nature – instead of blocking it out – allows for a more open and fluid interaction between structures, guests and the surrounding landscape.
Soohyun Chang comments: “Compared to other forms of hospitality developments such as hotels or chalets, the upfront costs and time spent in planning is greatly reduced. These units can even be used as temporary structures to maximise the value of a site prior to planning approval being granted for a more substantial resort development and construction taking place. Each unit is generally less than the typical cost of a car such as a Toyota Prius and can be ordered and manufactured in as little as 8-10 weeks.”
It is hoped that the design concept employed at the SJCC Glamping Resort can be adapted to create similar facilities across Asia, Europe and North America in the future. Atelier Chang is also looking at how this design can meet the growing need, globally, for low-cost, well-designed housing units which can be delivered quickly to meet demand.