The interior of "Hanok Dub," which Simone Carena restructured to make way for a wooden floor and a separate kitchen on the right. / Courtesy of Motoelastico
Simone Carena, professor of Hongik University poses at his office on Nov. 29 / Korea Times photo by Baek Byung-yeul
By Baek Byung-yeul
The standard of success for Koreans has long been in the size of their apartments. Convenient and safe, they are assets that show accumulated wealth. But 43-year-old Italian Simone Carena disagrees. He lives in a "hanok," a traditional Korean house.
"I am a living test subject. It is like being in a laboratory, testing myself, testing the architecture, testing another culture, and testing my ability to adapt. So living in a hanok is a very good experiment as an architect," said Carena, a professor with the International Design School for Advanced Studies at Hongik University through an interview with The Korea Times on Nov. 29.
He was born in near Turin and was attracted to Jamaican music, dub, a subgenre of reggae, which was popular in the 1960s, when he attended the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica as an exchange student. "The way I work in the architecture field resembles something like dub which seems to be a mixture of music to me. My hanok is a dub version of an original hanok. It is not the original. The original is very complex, and I don't know how to build it, but I added my style to my hanok," said Carena, also CEO of architecture studio Motoelastico.
"Thanks to my wife, we didn't have any clash of opinions because she still has special memories of having lived in a hanok in her youth. There was disapproval from people around us, not from us. My mother-in-law particularly didn't like the idea of buying a hanok," said Carena who featured in a KBS documentary, "Human Theater – Pasta, fall in love with hanok." The couple purchased their home for $30,000 in 2007. He met his Korean wife in 2001, and then they got married in 2006.
"I agree that compared to buying an apartment it is a good choice in terms of investment value, and I also like to drive Lamborghinis or Ducati bikes, however, apartmentsmean only large shelter to me," he continued.
"As an architect, I like to use the space. I'd like to live continuously in this space which was built in the Korean style outside but I myself and my wife designed the inside. It is always pleasant to live between Samcheong-dong's coffee zombies and Bukchon's photo zombies," he said, wittily describing the latest trends of Samcheong-dong and Bukchon.
After attaining a master's degree at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in the United States, and a professional degree in architecture at the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy, Carena explained why he came to Korea.
"When I first visited Korea in 2001, there were few Italians at that time. Not only I but also other Italians have a tendency to long to be different from others. I slightly disagreed with Koreans' way of thinking – a blending system, which mixes all things and makes them similar. My hanok dub resulted from opposition to those ways of thinking."