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Concert of sound and structure‘The architecture is a kind of bowl to contain the music,’ says Ark Community Church Pastor Kim Kwang Kun
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승인 2010.10.01  12:31:32
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▲ Outside the Ark Community Church. Photo by Darryl Coote

The village of Sangcheon-ri reads like the resume of renowned Japanese-Korean architect Itami Jun. In 1998, financed by native Jeju businessman Kim Hong Joo, Jun designed his first two projects on Jeju, both the Pinx Public Golf Club House and the Pinx Members Golf Club House. The Podo Hotel, a prime example of his ability to derive the essence of the surrounding environment and embed it in his designs, followed in 2001. In 2006 three art museums were constructed and christened after their inspirations; Stone, Water and Wind. 2008 marked the opening of Jun’s Church of Sky (later changed to Ark Community Church). In 2009 Jun was commissioned to design the Pinx Biotopia Town House and the Pinx Biotopia Hotel and Condominium. Together, these projects have created a village landmarked with Jun’s modern architecture, and their effect on the town has been prominent as was seen on Saturday, Sept. 25 at its spiritual center, the Ark Community Church.

Approximately 100 people turned out for the quarterly-held music recital, where baritone singer Prof. Choi Gyung Yul and accompanying pianist, Park Jung Hee, performed a selection of religious and classical pieces. The event was a mixture of culture and Christ, which according to host Kelly Shin reflected the local community. “I know that a lot of people who come to this church, their families are all famous musicians,” Shin said.

This, Shin explained, was the direct result of Jun’s nearby condominium complex and town houses, which attracted the affluent and the cultured. “They want to invite their daughter or sons because they are professional musicians. So we basically have a very special stage at every service.”

Senior pastor and organizer of the event, Kim Kwang Kun said in reference to the abundance of professional musicians that call Sangcheon-ri home that it was “God’s bless[ing]. I don’t know.”

Most of those interviewed on the evening were highly trained classical musicians.

Shin, also a member of the church, guesstimated that one-third of those in attendance on Saturday regularly attended the congregation and that only half of the total present, were religious. The area is heavily populated with golf resorts, and combined with Jun’s architecture the village doubles as a tourist attraction.

“All of the people from the mainland come over to see the church and checkout the service. Every Sunday we have about half from out of church. They are tourists or they are interested in the architect,” Shin said, continuing that most Jeju residents are not familiar with the church. “It is more famous to those people in Seoul. They make a trip to just check out this place.”

The building is a remarkable piece of work that resembles a barn more than a church. It is a small wood and concrete structure, surrounded by a pool of water and has a reflective roof that mirrors the dramatic, ever-changing sky. The interior, intone with Jun’s aesthetic philosophy, is minimalistic with clean lines and very little to deter the eye from the altar. Jun creates an interesting conflict in materials by utilizing wood and sheet metal. Kept purposefully separated, the wood beamwalls appear warm and soft when juxtaposed against the cold, hard metal sheets.

The acoustics, though this writer’s ear has never been trained for either music or Christ, seemed perfect. Choi’s voice carried without a hint of echo and the German, Italian and Korean lyrics were clear and sharp.

“The architecture is a kind of bowl to contain the music and its contents,” Kim said.

The event appeared to be a balanced mix of culture and Christianity, allowing those who simply love music to enjoy famous classical scores performed by accomplished musicians and believers to absorb the theology. But for those invested in both, like Lynn Kim, visiting her parents from Seoul for the Chuseok holiday, the event carries more weight. “For me, I’m a musician, I’m a pianist; I’m interested in the Italian songs and Korean songs also,” continuing that, “He [Choi] sang a song about, cheongsan, means green mountain. I visit Jeju now and I’m really amazed that god created this beautiful nature.”

For performers Choi and Park this was a particularly special event. “It is a great honor for me,” Choi said “because it is such a beautiful church. Especially for this occasion [Chuseok] is very special to the Korean people. This performance is so meaningful to me.” For Park this was her second occasion to perform at the Ark Community Church and she said “Because I’m a Christian and I’m a pianist and I love to accompany anybody, but especially him [Choi].”

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