Having spent an exorbitant amount of energy bemoaning the rise of vanity projects and novelty skyscrapers in recent weeks, a new tower set to rise on the outskirts of Seoul brings with it the tantalizing possibility of critical respite.
GDS Architects has proclaimed its Tower Infinity an “Anti-Landmark.” At first glance, however, this glacial spire appears to bear the same obnoxious, formalistic hallmarks of conceited icons elsewhere—I’m looking at you, Citylife Milano.
But all is not what it seems. With the aid of a cunning web of cameras and projections, this skyscraper can, at the flick of a switch, disappear into the night sky! A magical piece of technological ingenuity, or a cynical new branch of architectural exhibitionism? Only one thing is certain: this Houdini act sends a mixed message about the true motives of its developers…
The unique selling point of the glittering proposal, which ultimately led it to win an international design competition back in 2008, revolves around the use of a cutting-edge LED façade system that allows visual information behind the skyscraper to be captured and simultaneously projected from the tower’s surface. This allows the building to blend into the background like an enormous, crystalline chameleon.
GDS Architects argues that this feature sets it apart from its super-tall, attention-grabbing counterparts: “Instead of symbolizing prominence as another of the world’s tallest and best towers, our solution aims to provide the World’s first invisible tower, showcasing innovative Korean technology while encouraging a more Global narrative in the process.”
Now that the 450 meter-tall building has finally been granted a construction permit, the world’s largest invisibility cloak will soon be put to the test. Looking beyond the epic vanishing act though, this skyscraper has some other, intriguingly unconventional features.
For starters, the internal spaces will be entirely used for entertainment and leisure purposes—a refreshing function for a building typology dominated by the commercial and luxury residential sectors in recent times. Images of GDS’s model also indicate a variation in floor plates further up the spire, producing what should be open, active public spaces akin to the sky gardens of Gensler’s Shanghai Tower.
Returning to that illusory external skin, the technology’s potential is enticing. As well as the original, highly publicized function of allowing the entire building to “disappear,” the façade can also be used for broadcasting imagery for special events, acting like the vast screens seen in many stadiums and urban squares around the world. The more cynical among us might expect the elevations to most commonly function as gargantuan advertising billboards, while those more optimistic may hope for some fairly spectacular installation art. Perhaps there will be an amalgamation of the two, akin to Nokia’s extraordinary exploits on the walls of Millbank Tower in London back in 2011.
But what of GDS Architects’ claims? The proposed structure forms part of a National Gateway, yet it’s designed to “celebrate the global community rather than focus on itself.” It's 450 meters tall, but it’s “diminishing.” It’s the “best tower,” but it's also the “anti-tower.” What?!? GDS would be better off abandoning the architectural double-speak and just admit that this is an extortionately expensive, unashamedly phallic ego trip, up there with the best (and worst) of them.
This skyscraper has certain admirable features, its experimental façade breaking the mold amid a sea of faceless glass monoliths rising in cities around the world. However, the notion that its grand disappearing trick somehow makes it a less extravagant, more humble addition to the skyscraper genre is laughable. Far from being an Anti-Landmark, this supposed "camouflage" will only serve to make the Tower Infinity one of the most conspicuous landmarks of all time.
Agree? Disagree? State your case here.
The Angry Architect