Art, nature and religion: three concrete buildings by Álvaro Siza in South Korea

Portuguese architects Álvaro Siza and Carlos Castanheira collaborated on the three rough and sculptural buildings that dialogue with Saya Park’s natural landscape.

Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira, Saya Park, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Corea del Sud, 2018

Álvaro Siza and Carlos Castanheira immersed their trio of concrete buildings in the dense vegetation of Saya Park. The Art Pavilion, chapel and viewing tower – are sculptural and rough volumes, built entirely of concrete and without ornament, proposing an essential and rough spatial experience. The volumes exactly adapt to the place, dialoguing with natural light and panoramic views.

The Art Pavilion is an elongated, forked building, with a sinuous form that continues the route of the park. The structure has very few openings that make solemn the internal path, with punctually illuminated dark spaces. Carlos Castanheira says: “The Art Pavilion modified the hill site and also adapted itself to it. And we all also, adapted ourselves to the beauty of this project. There was a strong will to build this particular idea on that site.”

Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira, Saya Park, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Corea del Sud, 2018
Álvaro Siza and Carlos Castanheira, render of the observation tower in Saya Park

At the top of a hill is the observation tower, which stands obliquely on thick overgrowth. Going up inside the building, a few small openings permit fleeting glimpses of the landscape, which opens completely to the south at the top. “The almost raw finish of the exposed concrete contrasts with the purity of the form. Despite its simple appearance, the essence of the tower is complex,” says Castanheira.

Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira, Saya Park, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Corea del Sud, 2018
Image of the interior of the chapel designed by the Portuguese architects in South Korea

Isolated far away from the other two structures is the chapel, a place dedicated to meditation and introspection. The interior is punctuated by a single small zenithal opening, which defines the complexity of the interior volume. “The chapel building creeps into the hillside, opening to the east and allowing the light of the new day. It shares the place with other spaces of great symbolism and emotional significance. Its geometry is pure, because its function is also pure,” said Castanheira.

Saya Park
Gyeongsangbuk-do, Corea del Sud
Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira
Rita Ferreira, Diana Vasconcelos, Luíza Felizardo, Nuno Rodrigues, Filipa Guedes
Structural consultant:
HDP – Paulo Fidalgo
3d model:
Germano Vieira
1,350 sqm (art pavilion) + 200 sqm (observatory) + 42 sqm (chapel)

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