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Loose and yet Precise: GUBO Architects + Hong Jihak: Won Buddhism Yeoksam Temple

GUBO Architects + Hong Jihak

written by
Cho Yoonhee, Hong Jihak
photographed by
texture on texture
materials provided by
GUBO Architects
edited by
Bang Yukyung

SPACE April 2024 (No. 677) 




Creating a New Standard in Urban Religious Space that Relates to Everyday Life

Won Buddhism Yeoksam Temple, is located in the middle of a bustling red-light district. The renovation project, which transformed a five-storey neighbourhood living facility built in 2002 into a religious facility, is in line with the spirit of Won Buddhism, which advocates a religious practice closely related to everyday life. Beginning with the question ‘How can an urban religious facility encourage encounters between people through its appearance?’, we aimed to create an indoor environment for spiritual practice so that the Won Buddhism Temple can communicate smoothly with the surrounding urban context as a religion that is closely connected to daily life.

We wanted to make this temple a low-threshold religious building which members of the congregation could freely visit for relaxation in order to communicate closely with the local community. The existing closed exterior of the restaurant on the lower level is changed to expose interior transparently to the outside. The upper floors are reorganised to accommodate the space for Buddhist service and meditation. The small sanctuary (gathering hall) on the fourth floor is a space like an urban oasis open to nearby office workers, where they can take rest or practice Zen, meditation, and yoga on weekdays. Sliding hanji door (Korean-traditional style door) is added on the front, and a layer of terrace is inserted to the interior to control the distance from the busy cityscape.




The existing building has a floor height of only 3.3m, but the beam depth is 700mm across the ceiling, which makes it unsuitable for use as the main sanctuary of Won Buddhism Temple. On the fifth floor, the rooftop was removed and the floor height was increased to 6.2m while meeting the height restrictions and mandatory structural performance. The main sanctuary required careful planning to control natural light to create a spiritual environment for the religious space. The size of windows on the exterior walls have been reduced to their minimum, with only clerestory windows and a symbolic circular window inviting moderate light. As Il Won Sang is an important symbolic representation of Won Buddhism, the theme of the circular is emphasised and employed throughout the building. The textile façade, which covers the front wall of the building, was chosen to establish the relationship between the interior as a religious space and the city. The façade evenly divided by 2 × 2m square modules shows the intention of presenting a neatly restrained and ordered expression in the midst of the chaotic surrounding streetscape. At the same time, textiles were selected due to their material property which allows light to penetrate and connect the Won Buddhism Temple to the city, instead of a closed façade like other more conventional examples of religious architecture. 



You can see more information on the SPACE No. April (2024).


Cho Yoonhee (GUBO Architects) + Hong Jihak (Chun

Design team

Do Uram


723-1 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea


religious facility

Site area


Building area


Gross floor area


Building scope

B1, 5F





Building to land ratio


Floor area ratio



RC, steel frame

Exterior finishing

Sto, textile

Interior finishing

paint, exposed concrete, Sto, wood floor, concre

Structural engineer

Building Doctor Engineering

Mechanical engineer


Electrical engineer

MK Chunghyo



Design period

Feb. – June 2021

Construction period

Aug. 2021 – Oct. 2022


Won Buddhism Yeoksam Temple

Hong Jihak
Hong Jihak, after periods of research and building his career at SAC International, HAEAHN Architecture, and Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) at Boston, U.S., co-founded GUBO Architects in 2015. Hong studied architectural urbanism at MIT and received his PhD on theory of architectural history at Seoul National University. Hong is currently working as an associate professor in the department of architecture at Chungnam National University.
Cho Yoonhee
Cho Yoonhee has been working in architecture design since she co-founded GUBO Architects in 2015. After graduating from the department of architecture at Seoul National University and MIT, Cho built her career at IROJE architects & planners in Korea and Höweler + Yoon Architecture in Boston, U.S. Cho’s interest lies in building urban cities from the pedestrian perspective of an average person. She has worked as a public architect for Seoul Metropolitan Government and won the Korean Young Architect Award organiszed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2021.