Despite being most well known for its beautiful nature, the southwestern corner of Jeju is also home to some of the finest examples of architecture on the the island.
Perhaps most striking are the buildings designed by Itami Jun. These are the Podo Hotel, the Church of Sky and the three buildings that make up the Stone, Wind and Water Museum.
All the buildings are located in the Andeok-myeon area of Seogwipo.
Itami Jun was an award-winning Korean-Japanese architect who designed buildings throughout Korea and Japan. His work in Korea also including his projects on Jeju.
He won a number of top architecture awards including the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Korea Architecture award and the Kim Woo-geun Prize. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 74.
In part due to the many projects he completed on the island, Itami Jun spent a lot of time on Jeju. He loved the natural environment and was especially attracted to the oreum, sea, and stones found on Jeju.
This appreciation can be seen in the way his designs use the island's natural features as part of his buildings.
According to Itami Jun’s daughter, Itami had a strong philosophy that he had to be humble towards nature.
He thought that his job as an architect was to bridge the gap between nature and humans and as such he had to accept and embrace the area’s regional features, shapes, colors and the environment when designing a building.
He thought that you can only make a building that becomes at one with nature through reading the landscape of the area where the building will be constructed and through finding out about the key features of the local land.
Many of Itami Jun’s buildings on Jeju contain parts of the local culture and environment in their design. For example, the Podo Hotel uses Garot, traditional Jeju cloth, as decoration on the walls. Meanwhile, the Stone, Wind and Water Museum are clearly inspired by the Jeju landscape.
By using these everyday materials, Itami Jun’s daughter said the buildings can help you see the beauty of everyday nature that you normally ignore in your everyday life.
As all Itami Jun’s buildings are relatively close to each other, it is possible to see all them all in one trip.
▲ Podo Hotel Photo by ITM Yoo Ehwa Architects Co.
The Podo Hotel is a hotel in the Andeok-myeon area of Seogwipo. Its architecture is notable in that when viewed from above it resembles a bunch of grapes (Podo is the Korean word for grape).
As well as this, its innovative design uses natural materials and Jeju products to create a truly unique experience. Most interestingly from a Jeju point of view is that the walls inside the hotel are covered in the material used to make Garot, traditional Jeju clothing.
The many windows and openings to the outside flood the building with natural light while the black stone floors and the mini stream that runs through the building remind you that despite being inside, you are never far from nature.
Church of Sky is also in the Andeok-Myeon area of Jeju. It is surrounded by stunning scenery and as such has a very peaceful atmosphere, suitable for a church.
As it is fairly high up, on a clear day you can get wonderful views of the sea, the mountains, and even Sanbangsan.
The main features of the building are the mirrored roof that almost blends into the sky, the wood walls, and the water the surrounds the church on all sides. These natural features of the building help it become at one with the environment of the surrounding area.
The inside of the church is simple, with the main sanctuary taking up a significant part of the building. From here you really notice the light that comes through the windows on all sides of the building.
These are actually three separate buildings, located in the closed Sangcheon-ri community of Andeok-myeon.
Unlike the other buildings on this list, these buildings have no practical function and they exist simply to be enjoyed as pieces of art/architecture.
Each building aims to reflect a part of Jeju’s natural landscape. Especially compelling is the water museum where its pool of shallow water stretches across the floor and acts as a canvas to paint whichever designs the sky wishes.
▲ The Wind Museum Photo by Sato Shinichi
In these buildings Itami’s designs allow the water, wind and stone to become the main talking point of the building, not the building itself. They bring attention to these everyday parts of our lives that we perhaps forget about most of the time.
▲ The Stone Museum Photo by Sato Shinichi
As these buildings are located in a closed community, you must book a tour to view them through the website.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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