Church, Jeju (South Korea)


Church, Jeju (South Korea)

The island of Jeju, a block of Korean territory located in the strait that connects with the Sea of Japan, sums up Jun Itami’s career. A Korean national born in Tokyo in 1937, this architect spent most of his career in the land of the rising sun. In later life, he decided to return to his roots in an effort to solve his identity issues: in Korea people thought he was a Japanese architect and vice versa…






Architect: Jun ItamI, Contractor: Sunnie International Ltd.
Technique: VMZINC® Flat lock panel, Surface aspects: QUARTZ-ZINC®, ANTHRA-ZINC®


At the age of 61, he opened a studio in Seoul.  He designed several remarkable projects, including a good number in Jeju, before he died in 2011.

He designed a series of high quality residences on the island, providing accommodation for tourists attracted by the beauty of this site shaped by volcanic activity. He also designed three buildings that can be classified somewhere between architecture and sculpture, constructions installed in nature and built around emptiness: a wind museum, a water museum and a stone museum, where the elements and materials take on a religious significance.


Building the Jeju church placed the architect in direct contact with the sacred. The simple volume of the building, which faces towards the horizon, is reminiscent of a nave, like the upturned ships said to have housed the first churches. The church walls are glass, the roof is entirely covered in triangular shingles made of stainless steel and zinc (ANTHRA-ZINC® and QUARTZ-ZINC®), chosen above all for its elegance and malleability. Its flexibility made it possible to make flat flashings in complex configurations: six joints converge at the tip of each triangle. But apart from this technical imperative, zinc was perfect for Itami, who always preferred natural materials for his projects: wood, terracotta, metal, and stone. Itami was influenced by the artists of the Mono-Ha movement, who sought to create artistic effects by combining and superimposing raw materials. This approach that was coupled with the architect’s aesthetic preoccupation with patina. Ageing of materials, such as the self-protective coating that forms on zinc over time, is borrowed
from sabi, which literally means a change in material. Figuratively, the term designates a calm, melancholic atmosphere creating the impression that time has taken its toll on objects. The church in Jeju seems to be calmly waiting for the years to pass.