Tadao Ando’s ‘Space of Light’, a meditation pavilion, opens in South Korea

Tadao Ando’s ‘Space of Light’ pavilion opens at Museum SAN in South Korea

aerial of space of light pavilion at Museum SAN
(Image credit: Museum SAN)

‘Space of Light’ by Tadao Ando is the second meditation pavilion opening at Museum SAN in Wonju, South Korea. Launching today (18 July 2023), this is the newest addition to the Japanese architecture master’s contemplative series, embodying his signature style expressed by concrete, light and integration with nature. 

Intense sunlight cuts through the square concrete structure, as two narrow slits on the roof intersect and solemnly light up the four walls of the cold, dark void. Although not conceived as a piece of religious architecture, the space invites visitors to an almost sacred moment of contemplation and self-reflection.

space of light pavilion interior with tadao ando standing inside

(Image credit: Museum SAN)

Space of Light: a Tadao Ando meditation pavilion

At a glance, the pavilion might remind guests – at least those who follow Ando’s work – of his Church of Light in Osaka, Japan. The placement of the cross-shaped opening is the key difference between the two structures. The Church of Light has one at eye level on the main façade, and it is covered in glass. In the Space of Light, a similar opening is located in the ceiling and is open, with no glass to stop the elements from entering the space.  

'In the Space of Light, the light falls in directly from the sky, just like the Pantheon in Rome,' says Ando. 'I believe this has a significant impact. When you look at light, there’s a feeling that touches the heart.'

cross with light shining through at Museum SAN

(Image credit: Museum SAN)

This pavilion was built to mark the tenth anniversary of Museum SAN, a cultural destination tucked away in the mountainous region of Gangwon Province. Ando, who also designed the overall campus, which opened in 2013, was commissioned by the museum director to build a one-of-a-kind museum that will attract visitors to make the journey (it’s a good two-hour drive from Seoul). 

Celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2018, the museum unveiled the first meditation pavilion by Ando the following year. It is a dome-shaped structure that swells up from the ground like a tomb. A single streak of light shines into the space from the entrance. 

space of light pavilion by tadao ando with the architect standing in front

Tadao Ando beside the Space of Light pavilion

(Image credit: Museum SAN)

'Light,' is the main focus here, says the architect of his newly revealed pavilion. 'People will be able to feel that they are directly encountering nature.' He adds: 'With Space of Light, I wanted to create a space where nature and humans become one.' 

Unobstructed light flooding into the building is something Ando is proud of. 'Light is much more beautiful without the glass,' he says. 'One day, I would like to get rid of the glass in the Church of Light.'

Museum SAN aerial

Aerial view of Museum SAN

(Image credit: Museum SAN)

An exhibition exploring Ando’s oeuvre, titled ‘Tadao Ando – Youth,’ is being held inside the main museum building, also part of the anniversary celebrations. The show will run until the end of October 2023 – awarded a three-month extension as a result of the enthusiastic response by the 100,000 guests that visited since its opening in April. The exhibition showcases 250 pieces of Ando’s works spanning his long career. This is the first time the architect’s works have been showcased in the space that he designed.