This is the first of a four post series about South Korea. To start, I’m sharing an architecture photo tour of the city of Incheon. Visitors to South Korea likely arrive and pass through this port city from the main international airport located on an adjacent island. While Incheon is at least an hour by train from Seoul, it’s close enough to feel like a suburb of the capital.
Incheon is essentially two separate city zones. There’s the original older section and the newer neighborhoods that are being built on land reclaimed from the ocean. The latter is where much of the new tall buildings, dense apartment blocks and modern urban parks are being built. The visual contrast between these two areas of the city is pretty extreme. You can wander through narrow hilly densely packed sections of the old town, hop a subway and experience dozen lane boulevards, giant shopping centers and towering glass skyscrapers within the same hour.
The Tri-bowl by IARC Architects was the first of two building on my must see list. Completed in 2010 the windowless sculptural structure that hosts exhibitions and events still looks otherworldly, although it’s beginning to show its age. Located on the edge of Central Park in the Songdo neighborhood, the three connected bowl forms appear to float on a surrounding rectangular pool of water.
The Imprint by MVRDV is another windowless project adjacent to the Incheon Airport. Composed of a pair of buildings that house a night club, casino and a theme park, sadly it seems both are causalities of covid and now closed. MVDRV was initially challenged to design a pair of interesting opaque boxes. Their solution is clever and memorable. Parts of the facade on both buildings pull away from the ground to reveal entrance doors. The exterior of the nightclub, called Chroma, is partially covered with a large gold dot that extends on to the ground and front stairwell. The metallic paint is showing wear and peeling on the ground but the result is still strong especially at sunrise. The rest of the facades use relief elements and patterns to great effect. I visited early in the morning and the site was completely desolate. It felt a bit sad that these buildings are now going unused. Hopefully someone will come up with a creative reuse idea that doesn’t involve bulldozers.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter