Shinslab architecture has built a church just outside Seoul, South Korea, which embodies the very essence of divine illumination. The "Light of Life Chapel" was constructed with natural materials paired with glass in order to integrate the building into its surrounding landscape as much as possible. It is also flooded with daylight from every side. Even though the chapel itself is a hub nestled into the core of the much larger glass structure, the open lattice dome allows sunlight to stream through onto the parishioners within.
Built on the south-facing side of Bori Mountain in Gapyong, South Korea, this chapel is the central point in a village that’s being built to house retired missionaries. Created as a project by the Protestant and Presbyterian Nam Seoul Grace Church, the building is intended to serve a dual purpose: it’s a house of religious worship for village residents, and can also be used as a religious retreat for up to 100 guests.
Adhering to the tenets of Protestantism that decry idolatry, there are no paintings or sculptures depicting religious figures, as might be found in temples and churches of other faiths. The chapel’s circular shape is meant to evoke the idea of brotherhood and equality of all in the eyes of God, maintaining the lack of hierarchy within the Church. Construction began in 2008, after the church’s Pastor, Hong Jung-Gil, was given a large donation of Siberian red cedar wood. The chapel’s dome is created from the cut trunks of over 800 red cedars, which give the impression that they are still living, breathing trees rather than mere slabs of wood.
Other sections of cedar are used throughout the chapel, sanded smooth and combined with the aforementioned metal and glass to create a space that is warm and welcoming, as well as spiritually uplifting. The cross in the center of the chapel rises up from a pool of water, symbolizing baptism as well as resurrection. The hallway leading to the chapel is a bright, airy glass walkway that offers views of the mountainside nearby. Visitors to the church and its residents alike will have access to an onsite cafe and restaurant, and are welcome to pray in the chapel whenever they like, as it’s open every day of the week.
Photographs by Jin Hyo-Sook, Lee Dong-Hwan