Just read a fun article by Leslie Katz of CNET about how South Korea is going to get an “invisible” skyscraper. According to Katz, international architectural firm GDS Architects reports that it’s received a construction permit to begin building “the world’s first invisible tower.” The Tower Infinity will stand 450 meters (1,476 feet) and be situated in Cheongna, near the Incheon Airport just outside of Seoul.
Like other concepts for invisibility cloaks that have tantalized the geeky imagination, this one relies on optical illusion. The glass-encased Tower Infinity, also called City Tower, will be fitted with a high-tech LED facade that integrates projectors and 18 strategically placed weatherproof optical cameras. The cams will snap real-time pictures of the area directly behind the building, digitally stitch the images into a panorama, and project them back onto the building’s reflective surface. That will create the illusion that viewers are looking straight through the structure to the other side, making it appear to blend into the skyline at certain times of day. “The tower subtly demonstrates Korea’s rising position in the world by establishing its powerful presence through diminishing its presence,” reads a description on the GDS site. “Korea will have the unique position of having the ‘best’ tower by having an ‘anti-tower.”
Yeah . . . so let’s take a closer look at their statement. First, it’s not really invisible – it’s a big projector. Second, it’s near the airport. Here is my (probably pretty obvious) prediction. This tower will become a really, really big billboard for products. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Korea, like Japan, has a different cultural outlook on digital signage – they embrace it. If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, I defy you to find a spot that isn’t in the glow of digital signage. Even street signs, etc. are small billboards for advertising, news or other information. I’m not knocking it, but in a culture that prizes technological advances and advertising efficiency, I expect to see “Samsung” in 1,400 foot letters very soon.
According to Katz,”This same technology also allows the tower to become a 450-meter-tall billboard screen and urban focal point for all arriving at Incheon,” GDS says in a statement. No word year on the relationship between the structure’s invisibility and planes from the nearby airport. In addition to possessing superhero capabilities, the tower will house a 4D theater, a water park, landscaped gardens, and the third-highest observation deck in the world. GDS has not revealed a target completion date.
I can’t say I’m surprised. As a resident of Dallas, I have noticed a trend in the re-design of downtown Dallas, in which almost every new building features color LED lighting or other eye-catching display technology. Dallas had such a boring downtown for so long, that I think it looks pretty cool to have some color. However, if every building keeps doing it (and trying to outdo the others), it’s going to get pretty bright. Which leads to a bigger question – will it work and do people even notice? I think in the case of the Tower Infinity, yes, people will notice. It’s 1,400+ feet – you’re going to see it. Will it work? Not sure. We do quite a bit of digital signage consulting and projects and it depends on placement, message and several other factors.
In my personal opinion, digital signage only serves 2 purposes- to decrease perceived wait time and to influence at point-of-sale. The building – or any building – isn’t going to decrease perceived wait times, and it doesn’t seem all that likely that it’s going to be near a point-of-sale. Having said that, I do think the Tower Infinity will be pretty awesome and it is the first of its kind, which means it accomplishes one important task – pride.