Genius Loci: Japanese Architect Meets Jeju Island


‘Genius Loci’ is a building designed by the famous Japanese architect Ando Takao on the Seopji-koji peninsula, a little south of Seongsan Village on Jeju island’s east coast.


‘Genius Loci’ is supposed to be an ideal environment for meditation.


I had seen Ando Takao’s work before on Naoshima (an island in the Japanese inland sea).


His forte is to merge rectangular concrete shapes with natural scenery, such a in the above where rectangular concrete structure is blended with plants and flowers by the unifying element of Jeju island’s volcanic rocks.


In the book Dogs and Demons, Alex Kerr claims that this Japanese urge to apply rectangular concrete shapes onto gentle natural scenery arises from, among other forces, a feeling that Japan is still a developing country which needs to pour more concrete to continue ‘development’ (i.e. Japan doesn’t know when enough development is enough).


Anyway, these straight lines funnel us into what looks like a mostly submerged rectangular structure.


Shall we cross the threshold?


Look at that mesmerizing series of walls with rectangular holes.


On the right, though it’s not obvious from the photo, is a gentle sheet of water running over the stone and flowing down into the drain. Perhaps this symbolizes Jeju’s famous waterfalls (which I will present in a post soon).


Going straight head, at the end of this straight line we find a little rectangular hole in the stone wall through which we can spy upon one of the more beautiful sides of Seongsan Ilchulbong. Udo Island can also be seen behind Seongsan Ilchulbong.


Wen we turn 90 degrees to the right, and we see this corridor heading towards another stone wall. Let’s turn around another 90 degrees to the right!


Why, that’s the way we came from! Let’s turn another 90 degrees to the right, and follow this ramped path to its end on the ‘underground’ story.


After turning around a few times, we are below, and we look up at the bridge which we crossed to enter the compound. We can spy on other people entering if we wish.


Finally, we find a mysterious door which brings us inside the building. Is it just me, or does this feel just a teensy bit like Myst?


There are three works of art on exhibit within this concrete gallery (taking photos of the art is not permitted), and the passageways seem to connect at the central node above, yet it is only when you exit that you finally pass through the center. Also, there is plenty of space to sit down, rest, meditate, lie down, sleep, whatever you please.


After seeing Genius Loci, I got out to see more of the Seopji-koji peninsula.


It turns out that you don’t need Japanese architects to enjoy beautiful scenery.


I did go into another building designed by Ando Takao next door, which also has a little art gallery. The gallery featured charming and innocent works of art, such as the one below:

There is a cartoon mouse with the letter 'A' on its grey jacket, and this mouse is holding the head of another cartoon mouse.  Blood from the head is dripping onto the blade of the first mouse.

I then went out and – of course – spent more time looking at Seongsan Ilchulbong.


From this angle, you can see why Seongsan Ilchulbong is so famous. It really does stand out.



About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
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5 Responses to Genius Loci: Japanese Architect Meets Jeju Island

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