2021 03 Nuwa - Frame

Think you have to leave the city to escape the crowds for a night? Think again

A single-room guesthouse tucked down a narrow Seoul alleyway, Nuwa by Z_Lab is designed for ‘deliberately isolating from daily stresses and having time alone’.

Retreats have often been remote places beyond city limits. But what about travellers who want to visit busy metropolises but still have some semblance of a restful, isolated experience? Or those who live in an urban environment and want a sense of escape within its borders? That’s the mentality behind Nuwa, a single-room guesthouse tucked down a narrow alleyway in the residential area of Seochon in Seoul. Designed by Z_Lab, the space is about ‘deliberately isolating from daily stresses and having time alone’, says JunghyunPark, the studio’s CEO and design director. ‘In particular, I thought that creating a secret oasis-like space in the middle of the city could maximize the experience, rather than having to go on a long trip to be alone.’

The guest experience at Nuwa is inspired by its former life as a traditional Korean home. Z_Lab set out to reinterpret for today’s audience how the region’s inhabitants rested and entertained themselves hundreds of years ago: writing and painting, drinking tea, bathing and enjoying nature. ‘There is no external media such as TV or radio at Nuwa,’ says Park. ‘Looking at the reviews from guests, we can see the joy and relief they felt from spending time away from media in an isolated space. Sensuous music, the sound of water in the bathtub, the aroma and light in the space: these can all calm the senses.’

Park believes what started during the pandemic as the search for ‘short but focused experiences in more isolated places in the city centre due to the difficulty involved in travelling freely and far’ will evolve into ‘a more sensitive experience in the “untact stay” market’. (‘Untact’ – a portmanteau of the prefix ‘un’ and the word ‘contact’ – is often used in South Korea to refer to contactless interactions such as online shopping and self-service kiosks.)

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