The dense suburban housing in Pangyo-dong, an area 15 minutes south of central Seoul, leaves little room for parks and greenery. Luckily, Jo Jinman Architects designed Layered Terrace House with a built-in solution to this problem; it includes staggered levels, sheltering 17 different rooms and three external terraces and courtyards, slotting everything into a site of just 13 x 17m.

Eight family members occupy this house, including grandparents, aunt and uncle, father, mother and two young children. Each resident had different requirements and visions of their perfect home; the grandparents, for example, were keen to get a kitchen garden and study, whereas the young family needed a separate living space, playroom and study for the children.

Take an interactive tour of Layered Terrace House

Constrained by strict planning regulations that dictated going no more than two storeys high, the architects carefully arranged spaces within a multi-layered split level property with a roof terrace. The spacious result feels more like a three-storey house.

The design is ‘dynamic and responsive to accommodate a broad range of fixed and changing activities’, explain the architects. Wide maple stairs link the downstairs lounge to the half-floor of bedrooms above – doubling up as cinema seats for a projected screen.  Meanwhile the playroom factors in the children’s present height, enabling two levels within a 3.6m high space, but with a removable mezzanine which will transform the space into a master bedroom as they grow up.

A central courtyard unites all spaces, with interior facades of striped leftover Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPF) creating an intricate timber pattern, which rises up to the roof. Within the rooms, a modest composition of white walls and furnishings, and maple wood floors brings all spaces together, in a continuous layout that cleverly avoids corridors and wasted space.

The introverted house's elevations are rendered dark grey and feature few openings towards the road. Views are largely focused inwards, on the tranquil hidden courtyard and upper terraces, though small balconies and windows puncture the austere external surface, helping natural cross-ventilation throughout. Structural walls and floor slabs are visible on the external facades, revealing a hint of the internal arrangement.