Walls that breathe, as well as instruct

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Walls that breathe, as well as instruct

Korean peasants may have had hard lives, but nature provided them with at least one consolation: the local earth makes for great walls.
Traditional clay walls naturally moderate the humidity indoors and insulate heat well ― something Bruno Trevor, 66, a Swiss software programmer, and Lee Myeong-suk, 60, his Korean wife, found out when they moved into their clay-wall house in Naju, South Jeolla province.
They met in the United States in 1966 and got married before living in Switzerland. They retired in June 2005 and have been living in the house in Naju since September. Ms. Lee was the chairman of the Korean association in Switzerland; she met a pastor named Nam Sang-do, 49, through a church exchange program. Later, Ms. Lee asked the pastor to build the couple a clay-wall house so that her husband could better experience Korean living.
Mr. Nam builds and sells traditional clay-wall houses. He completed the house in three months. The building materials cost 90 million won ($94,730) and the land lease another 60 million won.
Mr. Trevor said that having lived in the house for 10 months, he has learned how elegant and important the style of architecture is. “I wish I could move the house to Switzerland and live in it,” he said.
The house was built out of only natural materials, such as wood, stone and fabric. The only synthetic materials were used in the roof, which has been waterproofed. Much of it was built ― even leveled ― by hand. The floors are uneven, but feel good to walk on, Mr. Trevor said.
“During the rainy season, it was never humid inside the house,” Mr. Trevor said. “In the winter, it wasn’t dry and I never caught a cold.”
“My friends and relatives from Switzerland came to my place and stayed here overnight, and said it was better than staying in a hotel,” he added.
Ms. Lee said her skin never gets dry and chapped, and that the smell of food never lingers in the house because it is absorbed into the walls.
Mr. Trevor and Ms. Lee plan to return to Switzerland next month and hope a foreigner moves in after them.

by Lee Hai-suk
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