Saemoonan Church

Seoinn Design Group as Architects

Established as the first Korean protestant church, Saemoonan Church constructed a new church on Sinmunno, Gwanghwamun, celebrating its 132nd anniversary. The shape resembles a mother's arms stretched out toward the sky. Saemoonan Church proposed four distinct church construction themes as basic guidelines; ① the historicity as the mother church of Korean protestant churches, ② the symbolism of doors open to heaven ③ the spatiality of expressing Christ as light, and ④ presenting a water space as a meaning of baptism and harmony. Hence, we adapted the themes with Loving God and Loving Neighbors and included them in the design. Loving God was mainly portrayed through the use and symbolism of the space, and the aspects of Loving Neighbors were expressed with the publicness through the external appearance and layout effect of the building that are revealed in the city center.


The public construction intention of Loving Neighbors is clearly visible throughout the architecture of Saemoonan Church, and this seems to be an architectural assignment that 21st century churches must deeply consider. In other words, a public nature and a space management program that supports the daily lives and comfort of citizens must exist in the church, rather than mass producing church architectures in a symbolic and reified one-dimensional form as a method of enlightenment for missionary work. The yard of Saemunan-ro created by the hollow front and bent arch gate, which are church architecture typologies that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, is intended to become a practical resting place of citizens by opening the church to neighbors rather than pursuing a reverent worship space with a closed nature like a monastery. The fact that a continuous communication was plotted through the lobby towards the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts also illustrates the openness of the church.


Here, the small chapel as well, which will bring back the history by downscaling the existing brick church, will be used as an actively open cultural space. In Seoul's forest of office buildings, Saemoonan Church provides plentiful rest to the packed city center through its freely unfolding spatial works by opening and emptying, rather than reacting with a commercial philosophy of scale like the buildings of maximum volume in the surrounding.


The transparent glass box, intended to seem as if it was disappearing into the sky beyond the curved wall, not only angles for a morphological harmony that is in contrast to the soft curved wall, but is also an architectural strategy that aims for it to protect the future generations from the congested streets and become a bright Education Hall with a rooftop garden. Furthermore, the top floor of the Education Hall building and the high altitude space of the Cross Tower can become a memorial space open to every citizen, just as the many churches of the world often open their top floor dome to their neighbors, since Seoul’s beautiful downtown panorama can be enjoyed to the utmost.

Saemoonan Church

Atelier KOMA as Architects

Saemoonan Church as a public space for loving neighbors

By not following the construction of a spire and Gothic building, which has dominated the archetype of Christian churches for two thousand years, it is considered a major contribution to modern church Architecture. Thus, the conventional spire in the Saemoonan Church was replaced by the soft curved efect open to the sky, and the excessive decorations were converted into simple and abstract expressions. rather than focusing on revealing the authority of the church. the soft curve on the facade metaphorically expresses God’s love and mercy.


In addition, rather than creating a solemn atmosphere in the form of a traditional long corridor, a fan-shaped chapel plane suggests a new era of worship that encourages the dynamic participation of believers.


The public architectural intentions of neighboring love are well manifested throughout the Saemoonan Church architecture, and they are architectural tasks to be contemplated by the churches of the 21stcentury. In other words, rather than mass producing church architecture in a symbolic and visualized one-dimensional form as a means of enlightenment for missions, a sense of public and spatial programs that support the lives of and rest for the people must exist within the church.


The facade with a concave surface, a church building typology you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and the courtyard of Saemoonan-ro, built by the arched gate, are intended to be a practical resting place for citizens by opening the church to the neighbors rather than seeking a holy place of worship with monastic closure. In addition, the section that continuously communicates through the lobby to the Sejong center for the Performing Arts also shows the openness of the church.


Moreover, a small chapel that reflects part of the history of the church through the use of the old bricks of the church will also be used as an open cultural space. In the office building forest in Seoul, the Saemoonan Church gives ample rest to the bustling city through free space by opening and emptying, rather than reacting to the commercial philosophy of scale like the surrounding largest buildings with maximum volume. This is why modern churches publicly express their neighbors’ love to the city.


Material Used:

1. Granite Stone – Facade Cladding – in that order

2. Brick – Memorial Chapel – in that order

3. Paint

4. Accoustic Panel – Worship Room – in that order

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