Architect Donggyu Choi gives insight into beauty of church buildings and the future of Korean architecture

전재우 기자l승인2019.10.24l수정2019.10.29 15:05

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▲ Seoin Design Group / CEO Donggyu Choi

Donggyu Choi, CEO of Seoin Design Group, studied architecture at Hanyang University. Since the graduation in 1971, he has walked a single path as a church architect for nearly 50 years. He is an honorary member of the Korean Institute of Architects and recently listed his name in the winners of The Architecture MaserPrize 2019 for his design of the ‘New Chapel of Saemunan Church’ set to be finished by the end of this year. 

The design, titled <Mother’s Arms>, is a combination of Choi’s design and a basic conception suggested by Kyung Hee University professor Eunsuk Lee. The awarding body of the prize gave high scores for beautiful and warm imagery of the chapel. Saemunan Church has passionately engaged in church architecture design for the last 10 years and Choi has responded with years of his knowledge and knowhow in the field. The award ceremony is taken place at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain on 14th October 2019. 

The US steel magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim collected modern artworks for life and funded to build the museum through his foundation. The museum has run The Architecture MasterPrize since 1985.

Choi stepped into church architecture by designing Somang Church in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam District, Seoul, by chance to be acquainted with the then head pastor Sunhee Gwak when he joined Seoul Couple Choir in 1975. He did not know much about church buildings but Gwak asked him to add two special pillars in the front of the church to symbolize ‘god’s temple’: one for Jachin and another for Boaz which stood on the porch of Solomon’s Temple in the Bible. Jachin means “God stands you up” and Boaz “God is omnipotent”. 

Thus began was his career as a church architect and it has lasted over 50 years. “Designing church buildings takes many elements into consideration from space and esthetic values to location and surrounding but above all the spirit of Christianity” says Choi.

It is very important for a church to give a strong impression when a visitor first steps into the sacred space. For this reason, it must not look like a headquarters of a company or a commercial complex or a sports and cultural center. Yet the budget normally is not sufficiently provided. Nevertheless, an accomplished church architect must bring solemn and religious elements to corridors and paths that link each chapel within the church. 

Some of the churches that are still breathing the mastery touch of Choi are as follows: Youngnak Church prayer house, Choonghyun Church, Shinchon Church, Nazareth Church, The Love Church, Namwon Dongbuk Church (a shape of lying cows on the field), and Mosegol Community building (most beloved one of Choi for beauty of modernity and exclusiveness).

“Back in the days, South Korea was not in the state to offer professional skills and system for architecture. Yet I would have tried bolder and more challenging styles if I knew better about architecture in my younger age. Anyway, seeing the young architects today makes me feel positive as they are talented and well equipped despite the system of industry still lacks in many, especially in terms of design costs.”

 Choi pointed out that around 10% are allocated to design in advanced countries but only South Korea seems to be stingy with 3% or up to 5% at maximum. “How can we expect a building that has a depth in both design and execution with this budget?” says Choi.

“Yet there is hope and the hope is our talented young architects. One day, they will fill up the streets with beautiful and unique buildings that can compare shoulder to shoulder with globally recognized buildings.”

   
 

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