Tadao Ando’s Space of Light is the second meditation pavilion opened at the SAN Museum in Wonju, South Korea. It is an addition to the contemplative series of the Japanese master of architecture, embodying his signature style characterized by concrete, light and integration with nature.
Bright sunlight cuts through the square concrete structure, two narrow slits in the roof intersecting and illuminating the four walls of the dark void. Ando does not define the structure as religious architecture, but the site invites visitors to a sacred moment of contemplation and reflection.
At first glance, the pavilion is reminiscent of another famous work of the architect – his Church of Light in Osaka. However, the key difference between the two designs is the placement of the cross-shaped opening. In the Church of Light it is located at eye level on the main facade and is also covered with glass. In “Space of Light” a similar hole is in the ceiling and is open. “In the pavilion, the light falls directly from the sky, like in the Pantheon in Rome. I believe this has a significant impact. When you look at the light, there is a feeling that touches the heart,” says Ando.
The pavilion was built to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the SAN Museum, a cultural center in the mountainous region of Gangwon Province. Ando, who also designed the entire campus (it opened in 2013), was commissioned by the museum’s director to create a one-of-a-kind museum that would become a focal point for visitors (it’s a two-hour drive from Seoul). In 2018, the museum opened the first meditation pavilion designed by Ando. It is a dome-shaped structure rising above the ground like a tomb. A single strip of light illuminates the space upon entry.
“Light is the focus here. People will be able to feel that they are directly communicating with nature and merging with it. Light is much more beautiful without glass, and one day I would like to get rid of glass in the Church of Light too,” comments the architect.