Stunning domed chapel of wood built for divine communion

Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture

From cross-laminated timber to high-rise wooden buildings, wood may be the greenest building material available, as it sequesters carbon for the building's lifetime, and is a renewable resource. There are many ways to utilize it; Korean firm Shinslab Architecture created this impressive space for a Protestant and Presbyterian community of retired missionaries of the Nam Seoul Grace Church, in a mountainous, forested village south of the capital of Seoul.

© Shinslab Architecture

Named the Light of Life Chapel and seen over at ArchDaily, the space utilizes a series of massive Siberian red cedar timbers that were donated to the church back in 2008 by a businessman. The building's glass-lined exterior attempts to blend into its surroundings, and gives no clue to the tremendous, day-lit space of wood hidden within. The idea, the architects say, is to create "a world apart" from the exterior mass, its "own universe" :

While remaining within the principles of Protestantism and in the expression of Christian symbolism, the project attempts to bring forth emotions from a liturgical, philosophical, spiritual and artistic point of view.

© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture

According to the designers, the dome-like space was specifically chosen to echo early Calvinist ideas about church reform to create a suitable and inspiring space of worship, relative to Catholic ideas of hierarchy and the power of the priesthood. Here, instead, the designers note that the circle represents a "communion of the faithful, the equality of men in front of God and the abolition of hierarchy within the church" -- rather than a mediated distance from the divine, here we have a "personal encounter with God." Divinity is of course, situated at the space's centre, symbolized by a fragile, aluminum cross standing in a pool of water.

© Shinslab Architecture

The surface of the dome is delineated by the sheared trunks of 834 upright cedar "trees," which are supported by a by the grounded timber poles which in turn hold a steel grid structure. It is further supported by a complementary network of steel lines. The whole hemispherical space is covered by a glass pyramid that allows natural daylight to pass through.

© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture

It's an evocative, awe-inspiring work that is made possible with the warmth, strength and vitality of wood, and it succeeds well in transmitting a sense of sacredness that virtually transcends religious affiliation. See more over at Shinslab Architecture and ArchDaily.

Tags: Architecture | South Korea | Wood Construction

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