Jetavana Buddhist Temple / GAON Studio
Manufacturers: VEKA, Hansol
Hyoungnam Lim, Eunjoo Roh in studio_GAON
Text description provided by the architects. Jetavana Buddhist Temple is a home of the Buddha who attained nirvana, and for religious people who seek to attain nirvana. Two years ago, a monk with a slender body and an intelligent gaze came to our office. With very concise and neat remarks, he told us that he planned to build a Buddhist temple for meditation.
Strictly speaking, I am not a Buddhist. But I think the basic spirit of all religions has something in common. “Religion, though the goal may be different, is the means to somewhere.” In fact, Korean religious architecture, especially Buddhist architecture, reveals an excellent interpretation of such a path and a wonderful sense of space. It tells of a very wise solution, where a few twists or oscillations are needed, rather than a straight line, and where topography and religious doctrine blend naturally into the architecture.
As the design progressed, I heard interesting tales of Buddhist stories from the Zen Master of Jetavana Buddhist Temple. The most impressive story was the concept of “Middle Way (Madhyamā-pratipad)”, meaning “Enjoyable from beginning to end”. The concept was exciting. We live in a strange obsession where living an idle and happy life is considered a waste of time. Wouldn’t it be so liberating if someone said to you “You can just have fun in life”! It was the original teaching of Buddha, but over the years many historical and local elements have been added and the original spirit of Buddhism has been badly damaged. The customer focus sessions were spent listening to stories, not discussing the design.
Jetavana is a Sanskrit meaning “Prince Zeta’s Forest”. Sudatta was busy looking for land to build a temple for Buddha and finally found the desired land. The landowner was Prince Zeta, and he said, “I will give you the land as much as you scatter gold coins here.” Sudatta then really started dropping gold coins on the earth, and Prince Zeta was surprised and stopped him. Eventually Jetavana was built on this land, and it became the place where Sakyamuni stayed the longest in his years of life, naturally becoming a holy place.
During the design, I wanted to plan the temple for a modern lifestyle, embracing ancient Buddhist ways and doctrines. Moreover, the head monk of the Seon (Zen) center was quite determined to return to the original values of Buddhism. To restore the basic Buddhist spirit that Sakyamuni annotated and preached while sitting at Jetavana, this spirit has been the greatest foundation for the design of the Jetavana Seon (Zen) center.
In this sense, a brick, which symbolizes the remains of Jetavana, was an obvious choice. Unlike most traditional Korean temples, it was not built as a hanok, but we built the frames with a concrete structure and put bricks in it. But, considering the existing layout of the traditional temple buildings, the path entering Iljumun Gate was designed to deviate three times, and using the original elevation of the site topography, three steps were formed so that Jongmuso (temple office), Kuti (where believers spend a few days in meditation), Yosache (temple house) and Buddhist shrine were placed in hierarchical order. It was a very old but very innovative approach.
After a one-year design period, construction began. The space was completed with a total of 300,000 bricks used to build the frames, lay bricks outside, and lay bricks on the floor. Construction also took a year. Thus, the space was completed, where the spirit of Middle Way “enjoyable from start to finish” pervades the house inside and out.