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Wednesday,August 21,2019
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Less but more: the paradoxical philosophy melted into Kim Kai-chun's architecture

   I take off my shoes and slowly step on each stair engraved in lotus. The moment when I reach the second floor of Dae Gak Jeon, the Buddhist sanctum at Dongguk University where the statue of Buddha looks on with  smile, my heart is filled with joy and fulfillment. I assume that every Donggukian who visits the Dae Gak Joen has experienced this kind of feeling.

   The notable point is this: even though it is hard to find some fancy and sparkling things which people get easily dazzled about and dream to achieve in their life journey, people feel full spiritually at Dae Gak Jeon. Paradoxically, Dae Gak Jeon is rather mundane and featureless. However, it includes everything around the world and combines everything with its architecture. The less Dae Gak Jeon has, the more it contains.

   How can this kind of paradox be possible and appear in the form of architecture? And what influenced the designer to get this idea? With this curiosity, The Post met Kim Kai-chun, who designed this sanctum, and talked about his view of the architecture for an hour in his office located at Kookmin University. To make a long story short, he is quite similar to Dae Gak Jeon in many ways.

   At 11:00A.M., the door opened and he came into the room where we had promised to meet. He wore a white shirt with black-rimmed glasses which perfectly match the image of a professor in the College of Design.

   Scared to be ignorant" were his first words as he started talking about how his view of the world and architecture has developed. "I have always been curious about everything that I see. It is natural that students don't have their own clear perspectives of the world. My philosophy keeps changing, but the key to creating my own philosophy has derived from my openness to all perspectives. It allowed me to equip myself with historical and philosophical insights and raise the power to understand the hidden meaning and aim of architecture collectively." he said firmly, emphasizing the word “collectively.”

   According to what he said, his collective thoughts and historical insight were to a large degree formed and stimulated by Buddhism, especially Zen. "Before I majored in Zen at Dongguk, I just didn’t know why traditional Korean design was good. We know vaguely that tradition is nice. But later, I figured out why our ancestors did this by studying Zen. It means I now put emphasis on recognizing and understanding the broad picture of architecture rather than remaining engrossed in detail and small decorations." He kept explaining what kind of changes he discovered after majoring in Zen. "Also, now I just understand what Korean traditional architecture is. I just know that because I formed my ideas based on historical insight and knowledge of art and Eastern philosophy. I know how all things are put together and make architecture as a whole." The reporter clearly understood the reason why Kim majored in Zen instead of Eastern architecture at graduate school after talking with him. He was not just a person who designs buildings. Rather, he truly understands the noble values and current thoughts of the time enclosed in the architecture. “Standing on the verge of the convergence of humanity and technology,” a memorable quote from Steve Jobs, seems to be a suitable introduction for him.

   Dae Gak Jeon and the International Seon Central Temple of Paradise are embodied in his thoughts greatly. He used this expression to explain architecture: “It has nothing itself, but is at the height of beauty and rapture.” "Look at the picture of the Temple of Paradise. It is just a square building that you can easily find. It looks really mundane, but the moment the doors of the temple are opened, the walls seem to disappear and it becomes a place where there are no boundaries or borders. Ironically, its emptiness and simplicity contains everything that people need to feel complete. This is what I really want from those who visit my buildings!" Kim said. "Dae Gak Jeon is the same. I want people to feel the happiness which is derived from the whole space as it is. The small engravings and images in Dae Gak Jeon played just a small part to complete two percents of the architecture."

   When it is empty and simple, everything can be full and perfect. His own philosophy, which evolved in the midst of his collective thoughts, is enough to bring up the question of our own lives. How can we try to make our lives complete while we are attached to minor things? Maybe the answer is right in front of us!

Park Ji-Hyun  bungaeo0@dongguk.edu

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