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Traditional Korean building in SA

image Denman Estate Park, off Callaghan and Fredericksburg Road, is unique among San Antonio buildings and construction projects.

SAN ANTONIO – The Korean Pavilion in Denman Estate Park is a structure like no other in San Antonio. Designated as a monument as a gift from sister city Gwangju, South Korea, its construction followed Korean building traditions.

    “Traditional Korean structures do not have a below grade foundation,” says Christopher Kimm, AIA, WestEast Design Group. “All of the building’s weight is in the roof. Like a boat, the structure uses a ballast, which is located in the roof. The building is supported and held in place by the weight of the structure (the building is so heavy it doesn’t move). The pavilion weighs 79 metric tons.
    “No nails, screws, anchors or bolts are used in the construction process. The pavilion is constructed out of pine from Canada that was taken back to Korea where the building parts were made and the structure was pre-assembled.”
    After about three months of site preparation, the foundation stones were placed on top of the grade. A modified chainsaw carved and cut the bottom of the foundation pillars to match the surface contour of the foundation stones, allowing the foundation pillars to sit securely on the stones. Salt was laid between the foundation stone and wooden foundation pillars to prevent termites from eating the wood.
    “Once the foundation pillars have been cut to the same height, the wooden floor is assembled over the pillars and the columns are raised on top of the floor,” he explains. “A special ceremony is held when the center ridge beam is raised. A small portion of the center beam is hollowed out and serves as a time capsule. Inside are the names of the builders and the owner. Traditionally, they also placed money and precious metals and stones in here so that the next generation has financial assistance in maintaining the structure.
    “Once the pavilion was constructed, the structure was stained with bright colors. A stain is used so that the color soaks into the wood rather than sitting on the surface. Mythical creatures are painted on the pavilion to ward off evil spirits. No patterns were used to paint the pavilion, only the skills of the artist.”
    Four “living human treasures” from Korea were involved in the pavilion’s construction: master stonemason, roofer, carpenter and painter. In Korea, individ-uals are designated human treasures if they are masters or experts in a skill set or possess a knowledge base related to cultural heritage, and they are encour-aged to pass their knowledge and skills on to keep the traditions alive.
    Completed in June 2010, the pavilion took two months to construct and about two weeks to stain. Twelve people came from Korea to attend the opening ceremony, including the mayor of Gwangju. –mh


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Mary Hazlett mary@constructionnews.net