Invisible Buildings: A New Trend in Architecture that Cannot be Seen

Diana Subirats

A new trend in modern architecture uses mimesis and optical illusions to create buildings that seem to deny their own existence.

The concept is not as categorical as to be or not to be. It’s something more subtle: it’s pretending that it isn’t. This contemporary architectural trend uses optical camouflage and resorts to big screens, mirrors, reflecting surfaces, camcorders, tiny cameras and screens, mimetic mesh, and a range of techniques to “cover” any three-dimensional object regardless of size. The purpose is to make it “disappear” into a mirror and merge with the surrounding landscape.

The Rachel Raymond House
Belmont, Massachusetts, United States

Invisible Buildings

In the same space previously occupied by the house of Rachel Raymond, an iconic work of architecture built by her sister, the famous American architect Eleanor Raymond in 1931, Pedro Joel Costa, a Portuguese architect built an ‘invisible’ house. The bucolic landscape of Belmont, Massachusetts, where it is located, contrasts with the challenge of its futuristic lines. Large glass panels create a harmonic rupture with the context as they blend into nature. Spacious areas designed with innovative whim reflect the needs of contemporary housing and living space.

The House of Mirrors
Tiree Island, Scotland

Invisible Buildings

House of Mirrors, a work by the German sculptor Ekkehard Altenburger, was a 1996 temporary installation located in Tiree Island in Scotland. Its author found inspiration in the environment and the landscape surrounding the structure reflected in itself, managing to create an undefined line between the house and the natural elements. The limits of where the landscape ends and art begins are blurred, create a kind of  uncertainty between reality and perception.

The Cira Centre
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Invisible Buildings

Cesar Pelli, one of the most famous skyscraper architects in the world, is the designer of Philadelphia’s Cira Center. Its atypical lines allow the huge mass of 29 floors lined with silver plated glass to change shape depending on the angle from which it is observed. Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, the company responsible for the light installation opted for a hidden LED lighting system. They built a light curtain behind the glass walls, which darkens during the day to reflect the city that surrounds it, and at night changes color to create different patterns and effects on the facade.

Atelier for an artist
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Invisible Buildings

Designed by DHL Architecture, “Atelier for an artist” is an innovative and functional study that could meet the needs of contemporary artists. It was presented in the festival of ideas organized by Atelier Malkovich in Amsterdam. Its principle is semitransparency and mimesis, a concept based on reflection and denial of its own existence. The exterior consists of several cubes of juxtaposed mirrors camouflaged with the environment. Both the main entrance and the doors are almost “invisible” and only evident when they are open. The refractory panels are supported by a wooden structure that creates different spaces and uninterrupted, labyrinthic passageways. Seen from the front, its interior garden is lost in the landscape to the point of not being able to define the limit between the living space and nature. Inside, its occupants are completely isolated from the eyes of outsiders.

The Mirror Cube
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

Invisible Buildings

It may seem unusual, but to sleep inside an “invisible” mirror cube suspended in the air and integrated into the foliage of the forest, is a dream materialized in The Mirror cube of the Treehotel in Harads, Sweden. The hotel, close to the Arctic Circle, consists of rooms with individual design and style. Each was created in collaboration with some of the most prestigious Scandinavian architects. The Mirror Cube, designed by the firm Tham & Videgard, is the most notable architectural work of the complex, an authentic refuge for the senses. It features perfect edges, encased by mirrors that reflect the sky and landscape, designed to provide its guests the sensation of being sheltered and, at the same, time surrounded by nature. The interior is entirely made of plywood, and its six windows, fully “invisible” from the outside, provide a panoramic view of the area.

Pinnacle at Symphony Place
Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Invisible Buildings

Another striking mimetic effect is evident, on a large scale, at the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, a skyscraper located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Created by the Pickard Chilton Company of New Haven, this mass of metal, steel, and glass is inspired by the timeless design of the classic skyscraper, with all the modern high-tech amenities. As a new point of reference in Nashville, the great glass curtain covering the construction uses reflection to turn the building into a ghost. The duality between reality and fiction, the landscape reflected on its large mirror, its solar lighting during the day and a complex system of LED lights at night, make the Pinnacle a symbol of avant-garde architecture.

Tower Infinity
Seoul, South Korea

Invisible Buildings

Seoul, South Korea, plans to debut its latest architectural feat, Tower Infinity, designed by GDS Architects, later this year. The skyscraper will be equipped with the most sophisticated optical camouflage technology and promises to practically “disappear” from the view. The stylized crystal needle, more than 1,476 feet tall, will feature an advanced system of computers, cameras and LED lights that will create a reflective cover on the outside of the massive structure, which will be translucent by day and bright at night. Eighteen optical cameras located at different points will capture real-time images of the surroundings and project them on the building. According to the position from where you observe it, you will see through the building, or the building could be partially visible. One purpose of utmost importance in this project is not to blur or interrupt the landscape of the rest of the city, but rather integrate it creating a harmonious fusion with the new Tower.  ■

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