How pleasing it would be looking at children read books, study and rest in the library named after one’s beloved daughter! Lee Sangcheol, father of Lee Jinah who died young in an accident, has donated money since September 15, 2005 to the city of Seoul for building a library in memory of his daughter who loved reading books. Mr. Lee only requested the architect to build the Memorial Wall for his daughter and allowed him to handle the rest as he wished. And Lee Jinah Memorial Library now became an important community facility and a great place for children for reading.
Lee Jinah Memorial Library is located nearby Seodaemun Prison in Independence Park in Seoul. The prison implies suppression and regulation, while the library implies open space and communication. And the architect uses various techniques to harmonize these two completely opposite impressions while maintaining the original function of library.
If you walk up the hill from Independence Gate station, you will see the library building that is in a color similar to that of the prison. The huge window of the library, however, distinguishes it from the prison. And the cubic structure of the building, which resembles the structure of the prison, retains the tension.
The huge transitional area at the entrance of the library narrows into a path to the inside and entraps visitors into the library. The inclined path is connected to the inner space for children, then turns into staircase and continues to the top floor. The straight staircase delivers the sunlight from the top window to the lower stories and brightens the inside of the building. The two spaces distinguished by the staircase are diagonally open to each other in different stories, so people can naturally exchange glances and communicate. This structure perhaps was used in the prison for the guards to watch the prisoners in the past, but it is now used in the library for communication between people.
Like this, the architect tends to use a void as a space for communication. And the huge window, which can be interpreted as a vertical void, is another example as the window creates communication between the inside and the outside; the window presents visitors a beautiful landscape at an unexpected spot. If you go out to the balcony at the top floor, Seodaemun Prison and Mt. Inwang will come into your sight and give you a spectacular view that you would not have expected to see while walking up the stairs.
The view at the balcony could have been seen through the window as well if the architect rotated the building and the window faced the prison and the mountain. But in that direction, the difference between the window and the dark wall of the prison would be emphasized and create unnatural atmosphere. Instead, the architect chose to let the window face the park entrance and shows the bookshelves to visitors, while he left the red brick wall to face and be in harmony with the prison. He also used wood and glass to more emphasize the warm atmosphere of the library than the cold atmosphere of the prison.
Written & Photo by MK Kim