“Today, when so much seems to conspire to reduce life and feeling to the most deprived and demeaning bottom line, it is more important than ever that we receive that extra dimension of dignity or delight and the elevated sense of self that the art of building can provide through the nature of the places where we live and work. What counts more than style is whether architecture improves our experience of the built world; whether it makes us wonder why we never noticed places in quite this way before.”
―Ada Louise Huxtable, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change
RW Concrete Church stands amidst a newly developed district in Byeollae, South Korea, in grey, intersecting volumes, an imposing presence in the summer, yet homogenises to the landscape of a city known for its picturesque winters. Located in Gyeonggi-do—South Korea’s most populous province famous for its beautiful landscapes of rivers, lakes, mountain ranges and national parks, the church sits on the threshold between nature and artificiality, or between creation and extinction—a sentience intended by its designers of the practice, NAMELESS Architecture.
A sheltered concrete yard devoid of any clues that one is in the presence of a church, greets the congregation into the building. This design of the raw and stark open space is intended for community interaction and religious programmes, yet the darkness is deliberate for what comes next. To reach the chapel, churchgoers must ascend up three flights within an enclosed staircase to arrive into a volume with a whole wall of windows penetrated by light. From the dark and enclosed to the bright and open, it is an experience that the architects believe would emulate the transition of daily life to the spiritual state of mind. As it cantilevers out 6.9m, the volume floats over the city as the view of the expansive landscape fills the windows, a deliberate pause for contemplation before the approach into the chapel.
Finished with the exact same concrete as the exterior, the chapel appears austere and somber. The architects designed seats into a shallow slope while the concrete beams run across the ceilings in the most utilitarian fashion. The nature of concrete as a material is used as a metaphor for religious values held solidly despite the unpredictability of life.
The only detail that stands out is the sliver of light along the narrow clerestory. In its minimalist language, the architecture of the church is pensive rather than celebratory—a modest reflection of life and the opportunity to contemplate one’s spiritual relationship without any distractions. Alluding to Ada Louise Huxtable’s introspection, it is a refreshing method to experience religion in the complicated, sensorial life in the twenty-first century.
This article was originally published in Minimalissimo Nº1