Karolina Ferenc (link)
location – Seoul
publication and exhibition – STUFF / NEXT HOME SEOUL 2017 (link)
year – 2017
# Elderly poverty in Seoul
# Give up generation
Issues around two groups of Seoul inhabitants today, young millennials and their grandparents, creates an image of ten million people megacity urban living condition. One of the major origin of current social issues in Korea is its quickly aging society. Between 1955-1960 and 1968-1974 South Korea experienced two baby booms. Number of baby boomers comprises 34 % of total population. Together with a drastically low birth rate, baby boomers give an image of gradually aging population. Older generations dominate job market in South Korea, thus living very little work options for young people. In addition to joblessness, so-called Millennials have to face an upcoming higher taxes to cover retirement pensions of Baby Boom generation. This millennial generation is nicknamed ‘Give-up Generation’ referring to things that young people have been forced to give up on – dating, marriage, childbirth, steady (or even any) employment and home ownership.
According to OECD2 economic survey in 2016 South Korea noted the highest rate of elderly poverty. Half of Korea’s elderly- generation that helped to rebuild the economy after Korean war-are considered in poverty. About a quarter live alone, struggle with living in isolation and depression. Many of seniors are not eligible for financial support because government records show that they have children, who are assumed to be taking care of them. In reality these elders don’t even have contact with their children. In the past caring for the elderly was considered as responsibility of the kids. “Over the past 15 years, the percentage of children who think they should look after their parents has shrunk from 90% to 37%, according to government polls”. Being separated from children together with being widowed and being divorced late in life are few of the reasons of increasing number of elderly single households which is mostly an involuntary situation that elderly find difficult to deal with economically as well as psychologically.
1. Example of typical apartment layout in Seoul
2. Blurred boundaries-adjustable program
This project is a speculative rental-housing prototype involving a transgenerational co-living as an alternative to traditional mass housing apartments.
The key aspect of this project – a transgenerational co-living – can be described as a ground for a free exchange of a knowledge and support that might contribute to a self-sufficiency of people being in difficult living situation. The project follows the ethos of collective self-help and culture of sharing.
The only fully separated and fixed space within the unit is a shared bathroom. It is separate because we consider it as the most intimate area within a shared home. It is fixed because of a technical reasons. Privacy layer (movable space dividers) are wrapped around the bathroom in the center. Rest of the space can be freely arranged with help of the space dividers into sleeping, dining, cooking area and so on. 50m2 unit is intend for a mixed age group with a special focus on students, young professionals and elderly. Every unit can be occupied with at least 2 people. Inhabitants need to decide on their own about the arrangement of the space. The interior elements allow for a spontaneous rearrangements of the unit program. 2 units are connected with each other by the kitchen area. It’s up to inhabitants how they divide and arrange their private and shared space or how many people they want to live with in total. Relationship between objects that a typical living space contains and consists of like walls, doors, corridors or kitchen are fluid, and can be adjusted/moved/replaced.
3. Seoul, Sanggye-dong, extracted existing apartment layout
4. Existing layout typology modification
New typology – 50m2 unit
A – 50m2 floor
B – foldable wall
C – privacy layers (movable space dividers)
c1 – visual & acoustic layer
c2 – gradient screen – intimate visual barrier
c3 – functional mesh – work layer
D – central bathroom
E – ceiling rails
F – mobile kitchen
G – mobile storage
H – mobile/foldable bed
It is believed that collective living might be a way to foster interpersonal bonds and – consequently – fight a loneliness, isolation and inequality amongst students, young professionals and elderly. It may help younger inhabitants to feel more comfortable with the idea of getting older in a society obsessed with youth and restrained by same-age group education. As Ivan Illich argued, education shouldn’t be limited to a specific age group in order to allow all people, despite their age, to learn from each other, the same might be applied to co-housing, where both – young and old – would benefit from living in diverse environment. Dealing together with both – routine and unexpectedness – of everyday life situations might offer a positive lesson from sociality and togetherness for those who suffer loneliness or frustration caused by extreme individualization in modernity.
The interior within this project becomes a tool for a spontaneous and active creation of living space, which is not only a space for sleeping and eating but, perhaps, for a support and caring as involvement and participation is needed to create and define the space. This new form of home unit aims to provide care and informal education – a place of production, not only consumption.