By the looks of it, Dutch architecture studio MVRDV had way too much fun designing these buildings in an entertainment complex known as The Imprint, near South Korea’s largest airport. The facades are straight out of a Salvador Dalí painting. Or, as MVRDV principal and cofounder Winy Maas writes, “Giorgio de Chirico would have liked to paint it, I think.”
The firm’s brief called for two buildings, neither of which needed any windows whatsoever: a large indoor theme park and a dance club. “The design . . . therefore arises from a simple question,” the architects write in a statement. “Can we design an expressive facade that connects with its surroundings even though it has no windows?”
Instead of creating plain box-like structures or, worse, mimicking the artificial grandiosity of a Vegas casino, MVRDV decided to build a surrealist’s wonderland. First, they took the facades of other buildings in the same complex, which is known as Paradise City, a large resort town attached to Incheon International Airport, and digitally “draped” them over the facades of the new buildings–then actually twisted the entire 3D model to give the impression that reality itself was being distorted.
The construction company created panels based on MVRDV’s model, using fiberglass-reinforced concrete and assembling each panel to create seamless-looking effects like melting and draping. To add to the disorienting effect, they painted everything white; you might mistake some of the photos for test renderings of a 3D model that hasn’t been given textures yet.
The theme park, called Chroma, also has two facades that are painted gold, which is meant to shine day and night to welcome visitors flying into the nearby airport to Korea. The main facade looks like a curtain being lifted by a giant, invisible hand.
When visitors walk through that golden “curtain,” they’ll find a long, Alice in Wonderland-esque walkway with a glass floor made of colorful LCD screens reflected in the mirrored walls and ceiling.
The entire complex seems more like an art installation than a series of buildings, a feeling that, according to Maas, is precisely the intent of the piece, designed to contrast with the party and entertainment that happens inside these structures: “Two months ago most of the cladding was done and the client said, ‘this is an art piece,'” he writes on the firm’s website. “What is interesting about that is that they are looking for that momentum–that entertainment can become art or that the building can become artistic in that way. What, then, is the difference between architecture and art? The project plays with that and I think that abstraction is part of it, but it has to surprise, seduce, and it has to calm down.”
I don’t think I’d pay much attention to the architecture going out, but I’d definitely admire it going in.