Saemoonan Church, a place to relax in the city

The Saemoonan Church, built in 2019, have been recognized its value on various international stages, was built with the theme of “Publicity of church architecture” in the center of a huge city, Seoul in the 21st century.

Studio Name: Lee Eunseok + SEOINN
Design Team: Atelier KOMA, SEOINN Design Group
Site area : 4,219.2㎡
Building area : 2,452.9㎡
Total floor area : 31,909.57㎡
Year: 2019
Location: 97 Saemunan-ro, Sajik-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Consultants: CJ Construction (Construction

Saemoonan Church by Lee Eunseok + SEOINN - Sheet4
©Lee Eunseok + SEOINN

A philosophy oriented from distinguishment to harmony

For a while, church architecture was focused on creating a space, meaning as distinction or separation from the world. The space that separated itself and gather separately became a typical example of the early Christian church space. However, the typical church space was transformed into a church in the city at the Middle Age and in recent years, church architecture that focused more on openness has been generalized. In the last century, Korean church architecture were also built with the main themes of “Devoutness and Intimacy”. However, the Korean church style in the 21st century had changed its tendence to respond to an era of open society and coexistence. The reason why Korean church architecture had a closed form is that the entire Korean society has been dominated by authoritative and separative cultures. However, modern church architecture in Korea today focuses on how the church has a good influence on the lives of neighbors beyond individual salvation, and how church architecture can melt into a space of peaceful harmony in cities and society. Thus, in case of the new Saemoonan Church, it acquires publicity in downtown of Seoul and actively promotes harmony with neighbors.

Saemoonan Church by Lee Eunseok + SEOINN - Sheet6
©Lee Eunseok + SEOINN

Architecture pursuing publicity

The Saemoonan Church hoped from the guidelines of the architecture competition that an architect would suggest how the new church would serve the public. And “We intend to build a new chapel and provide citizens with open space and a pleasant and beautiful rest area as much as possible to use freely. This open space will be a place for our church to practice civic service and at the same time, it will be an effective place of evangelism.” that referred in design principle was impressive to us and in order to respond to the hope that client want to, we effectively included the historical symbols and values of publicity in the design. And the selected plan was carried out as an construction documents phase without any significant change. In the design methods, ‘Love of God’ was described as a practicality and symbolism of the church space, and the aspect of ‘Love of neighbors’ was expressed as an appearance of the architecture in the city and the publicity through the square. In particular, the meaning of the “Open door,” which was the main entry of the guideline, is an image that symbolizes believers’ wishes for heaven and it was also a shape that informing all citizens that the church is always open. So we expressed an “Open door” as the public function of the square and the openness of the church.

Saemoonan Church by Lee Eunseok + SEOINN - Sheet8
©Lee Eunseok + SEOINN

The Space of the Saemoonan Church towards a New Era

Breaking away from the spires and Gothic formal images that dominated the typical church architecture for a long time since the Middle Ages is the main value that modern church architecture is facing. The shape of the spire, which has been repeatedly reproduced in numerous church architectures, has been replaced in the Saemoonan church to a curved effect toward the city and an empty space open to the sky. In addition, the excessive decorations commonly encountered in religious architecture were converted into simple and abstract expressions, and the solemn atmosphere of the chapel in the form of a long corridor was replaced to a fan-shaped modern worship space that encouraged the dynamic participation of believers.

The hollow shaped facade and curved arch gates, which are the typologies of unique church architecture, are well revealed in a commemorative form in downtown Seoul. And we wished the Square, which created along the form, to be a practical resting place for citizens. In addition, the flow planning that penetrate the lobby to seek continuous communication with city is also openness. Moreover, a small chapel that was built with the brick, which was former church’s material, to remember history is provided to citizens as a cultural space. Rather than responding to the city with a commercial attitude that build with the maximum floor area in the forest of high-rise buildings, Saemoonan Church tries to visually empty space toward the sky and provide a plenty of resting place as a square in the city.


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