The Imprint by MVRDV is a stunning, eye-catching, art and entertainment complex spread across two buildings in close proximity to Seoul’s Incheon Airport. Featuring a nightclub in one and an indoor theme park in the other, the windowless structures feature three key design elements: imprints of the façade features of surrounding buildings, lifted entrances, and a golden entrance spot covering one corner of the nightclub building.
It is a part of the larger Paradise City complex of six buildings in total, which has been designed to provide a full suite of entertainment and hotel attractions less than a kilometre away from South Korea’s largest airport. Given the proposed programme of the two buildings – a nightclub and an indoor theme park, MVRDV had a free reign on the design of facade since they could do away with windows for both the structures. The design of The Imprint, therefore, arose from a simple question: can we design an expressive façade that connects with its surroundings even though it has no windows?
“By placing, as it were, surrounding buildings into the facades of our buildings and in the central plaza, we connect The Imprint with the neighbours,” says Winy Maas, principal and co-founder of MVRDV. “This ensures coherence. Paradise City is not a collection of individual objects such as Las Vegas, but a real city.” The result was an intriguing piece of architecture with a facade that was made of concrete panels imprinted with the designs of the neighbouring buildings, which are draped over the simple building forms and plazas like a shadow, and imprinted as a relief pattern onto the façades. Given the complexity of facades, the numerous individual panels were made from glass-fibre reinforced concrete that were cast in moulds produced using the 3D modelling files. As many of the 3,869 panels are unique, the construction required moulds to be individually produced using MVRDV’s 3D modelling files from the design phase. Once installed, these panels were painted white in order to emphasise the relief in the design.
The golden spot is the project’s most obvious and attention-grabbing expressive element, even catching the eyes of passengers coming in to land at Incheon Airport. The golden colour is achieved simply by using gold paint instead of white, and is reinforced by the lighting of the facades at night: while the majority of the façade is lit from below, the gold spot is highlighted from above. “The virgin building has received a splash of gold. This makes it as if the entrance is also illuminated at night by a ray of sunlight,” says Maas. “Passengers in the incoming aircraft can already see this ‘sun’ from above the ocean, as a kind of welcome to South Korea.”
Maas adds, “The client said, ‘this is an art piece’. 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.”
The entrances, where the façades are lifted like a curtain to reveal mirrored ceilings and glass media floors, exude a sense of the excitement happening inside. “Reflection and theatricality are therefore combined,” concludes Maas. “With our design, after the nightly escapades, a zen-like silence follows during the day, providing an almost literally reflective situation for the after parties. Giorgio de Chirico would have liked to paint it, I think."