The First Egg Chapel is part of Egg City, in South Korea. Egg City is an ongoing work of parallel and sometimes intersecting actions – drawing, painting, model-making, writing, teaching, publishing, planning, and building. It is an ongoing body-of-work within an organizing Merzbau.
The Egg Chapel is an extension of a fascination with a generating principle found in ninth grade zoology class that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” – the development of the embryo retells the developmental history of the species.
In 1983 I started “Egg City” after being mugged on the street and almost killed. I moved to Staten Island to heal while living on the Kill van Kull overlooking New York Harbor and Manhattan.
There I made a series of 50 small white, wood cube models and drawings – like eggs. They were pure, simple totems made as notational notes within a scale-less, site-less, budget-less tectonic, elemental syntax. Egg City at the time was a working title for a book of projects.
With time the name – Egg City – quickly became a symbol for the sense of a full, total place where all work was being done and contained.
There was never a city: no master plan nor grand design. It is an just an umbrella – a cover, a hood that opens and closes – for a relentless parallel work. At times the different types of work run parallel – and at times they intersected and overlapped. Usually one line of work stops and then another will start again when done or ready to go ahead. It is an industry.
At the beginning my first method was to produce a “chapter” of work a month – based on the Lunar Monthly Calendar. This set-up a simple method based on a rhythm of tidal ebb-and flow via the gravity pull of the moon.
Egg City sets-up a structural scaffolding for inter-connecting all study and work. The monthly chapters are still part of an ongoing method. Now I do more than one project or chapter a month. There are over 500 chapters of work.
Egg City is a disjunctive, cinematic bricolage of study and making. I see it like a walk down Broadway – a broken sequence of disconnected events connected merely by the path of the walk. There is no beginning and no end. It goes on forever – with a lot of honking.
The First Egg Chapel is an experimental project. It is on the one hand a simple form, on the other a highly complex, complicated structure. The bird egg is itself an almost perfect form – at once simple and complex. It is a very strong, thick shell vertically so that when the egg is laid by the bird, it drops out and down. The egg is a very delicate, thin shell horizontally around the middle so that the baby bird can easily peck its way out – toward the bright light.
The bird egg is made by the mother bird from the embryo out. The shell is composed mainly of calcium carbonate in layers of vertical columns of crystalline growth. This outer layer is of great strength. It also is a porous so the chick can breathe while developing in the egg inside and out the bird’s body.
The egg of the Egg Chapel is a symbol of genesis. It evokes beginning. It represents zero. It is about the new. It is about the new day, new dawn.
The egg of the Egg Chapel is an icon of fertility, conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth. The egg is of, by, and from the mother – all mothers.
And the Egg of the Egg Chapel acts as an index of Christianity and Christ. It is an echo of resurrection – Resurrection of Jesus – and of all birth, life, death and re-birth.
The Egg Chapel is made up of two simple lines: one line is horizontal marking the floor plan – a 14 foot diameter circle; the second line is the vertical outline making the form of the egg. The two lines delineate two circles, zero zero or naught naught.
The egg form makes architecture of strong volume: a full space that presses out. This in turn makes a taut and expansive form – like the wood balloon-frame houses of New England. The wood skin feels and looks stretched to its limits. This gives the visual feeling of an expanding volume – much like a balloon expanding to the outermost point just before it pops.
The door and windows are slices and slots. The west door is a subtraction of volume. The slipping east oculus is a flat slice off the volume of the egg like a slice off an apple. The north and south windows are two cuts as subtractive slots. The north slot is vertical, the southern one horizontal. On entering the chapel, one enters between the north vertical and the south horizontal slots so that the human body completes the two lines of the Christian cross.
This First Egg Chapel was built by old school yacht builders in the famous boat building town of Bristol, Rhode Island. It built in 12 wood sections as vertical boat hulls like wood rowing shells. The wood hulls and the top dome piece were shipped by boat to Inchon, South Korea, then trucked to the mountain W-Zone Park near the small river village of Munho-ri just east of Seoul. In June it was assembled and erected in 6 weeks by the local contractor. The Egg Chapel opened July 17, 2012 and is called Capella Ovi by the client Pastor Song and the Hi Family.
Capella Ovi makes what my long time teacher and friend Rev. Edward B. Gammons Jr. calls a “Thin Space” – an ancient Celtic tradition of building a simple building in wild nature where – and so that people can go to meet the spirit in a thin place of refuge.
And finally, this First Egg Chapel Capella Ovi stands for an alternative “Not Not Architecture” – an elemental architecture already here, found, not designed – an architecture trouve. “Not Not,” a double negative exists in almost all languages to expresses firmly an absolute positive: a “Yes, Yes.”