Joomak Restaurant / NOMAL
Text description provided by the architects. The centralization of the metropolitan area, development of new local cities, changes in industrial structure, and population decline have led to the deterioration of small towns that had once prospered. Regenerating and revitalizing a decayed city is not just about local governments investing in various policies and budgets; private companies are also participating, and the interest of residents is increasing. Among these attempts, ‘MBC Empty House 3’ is a public-private cooperative commercial venture between Jeonju City, a private company, and a broadcasting station as an approach to solving slums in Palbok-dong, Jeonju, Korea.
In the 1970s, Palbok-dong was a light industrial area representing Jeonju, experiencing a wave of industrialization. Huvis, Munhwa Pencil, and Jeonju Paper are still located in Palbok-dong. As factories began to open in the once-quiet rural village during the manufacturing revival, many people flocked to Palbok-dong to look for jobs. Nowadays, the neglected and abandoned manufacturing factories and residential areas for workers are a testament to the past manufacturing revival period in Palbok-dong. Likewise, Palbok-dong, which represented Jeonju’s history and economy for a long time, could not avoid the rapidly changing domestic industrial structure, and the manufacturing industry declined in the 1990s, leaving only abandoned factories and severe environmental pollution and becoming a neglected area.
‘MBC Empty House 3’ selected four old empty houses in Palbok-dong. The four architect offices participated in regenerating these houses in their identical ways, and ‘Joomak’ is one of them. The project’s beginning concerned the concepts of hanok, publicness, and a restaurant. Joomak is a Korean term for a traditional tavern, and it is a symbol that could accommodate all these elements. Joomak was a commercial space where travelers could rest and where surrounding neighbors mingled. Joomak had indoor spaces for lodging and cooking, and outdoor spaces had benches called pyung-sang and tables where guests could rest or eat. Palbok-dong’s ‘Joomak’, a pyung-sang, is partially indoor, making it less vulnerable to the weather. Indeed, several design components make this indoor space symbolically an outdoor space.
Since the exterior walls were metal, the wall between the kitchen and the hall was also metal, and the roof material was connected to the interior ceiling, implying that the internal hall was symbolically an external space, just like a traditional joomak. Furthermore, the landscape breaks down the boundary between inside and outside. The purpose was to secure a sense of visual openness in a relatively narrow space and emphasize the internal hall as an external space. Also, the adjacent vacant lot was converted into a village park, and the wall was removed to eliminate the boundary between the two sites. It allows ‘Joomak’ to have a more prominent front yard, and the park will be able to use the facilities of the ‘Joomak’.
The existing houses on this site were critically damaged. One hanok and three houses with roofs and floors collapsed, and walls broke. Although the upper structure of the hanok was barely usable, most of the bases were rotted. Three houses were judged unusable in a structural safety inspection. Nevertheless, the design focused on preserving existing traces as much as possible because it is a building that has existed in the town for a long time as part of the village landscape with various memories of Palbok-dong. In the case of the hanok, the roof was carefully removed to prevent the existing structure from collapsing, and the rotted wood structure was reinforced by wrapping the lower part with metal and filled with concrete. Modern material was substituted for load consideration and roof performance instead of traditional roof tiles.
The real challenge was the three houses. It was declared unusable, but the intention was not to demolish and erase all traces of its existence. Maintaining the existing wall and building a new one inside required construction space between the new and existing walls, which reduced the area too much. So the approach was to leave the existing walls behind, lift the prefab house from the outside into the air, and fit it in. There were many concerns because this method had not been attempted domestically, but fortunately, the crane safely installed the new prefab house in the existing house. Consultations between a private company, a local government, and a broadcasting station were necessary. Also, the architecture and interior construction were carried out separately. Three hosts and four different sites took place simultaneously, with many difficult moments. However, expectations grew as the number of people visiting Palbok-dong increased, and it began to become more vibrant again due to the results of the four locations. This project is a starting point for urban regeneration in Palbok-dong.
It should not be a simple one-time event, but subsequent operation and management should be carried out systematically and supported by policies and budgets to lead to the next stage of change. Existing resident communities must benefit from urban regeneration by coexisting with each other rather than being alienated. As a participating architect, we look forward to seeing the development of Palbok-dong as a live village of local communities and commercial districts with fewer empty houses.