Architecture the James Turrell way states: “The qualities of the space must be seen, and the architecture of the form must not be dominant.” That’s the approach one firm is taking with the Tower Infinity in South Korea. It’s being marketed as the first “invisible skyscraper.” The building will be wrapped in a “reflective skin” that reveals the surrounding environment. Camouflaged buildings are nothing new, but architects and designers are still learning how to refine and conceptualize these structures to help people experience form and space in unique ways. This transparency lends a beautiful and often fragile quality to buildings, but it can also be a poignant statement about man’s intrusion upon the environment. Here are 15 examples of invisible buildings we love.
The Cairns Botanic Gardens in Australia, designed by Charles Wright Architects, minimizes intrusion upon the landscape. “We proposed a design which literally reflects the gardens as camouflage for the building,” designers stated. The surrounding tropical plants mirrored along the visitor’s center transformed the entryway into an inviting, nature-filled space.
The Cadyville Sauna (from Dan Hisel Architect) sits along the Saranac River in upstate New York. It’s built against a cliff, part of which is used as an interior wall, and covered in mirrors. Reflections of trees and the surrounding space toy with your sense of perception. The sauna is a true meditative hideaway.
RO&AD Architects designed this pedestrian bridge that creates the illusion people are walking through water.
The perfect space for a game of hide and seek, MIRRORRORRIM was designed by 360 Architecture and totally blends into its grassy surroundings. Holes along the mirrored surfaces of the towering fort allow people to see out.
The Blur Building was a pavilion at the Swiss EXPO 2002 that cantilevered out over Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The structure camouflages itself through a built-in system of nozzles and jets (over 13,000 of them) that spray a mist of water and fog around the building. A 400-foot ramp leading up to the pavilion reinforced the illusion of walking into a giant cloud — which measured over 300 feet wide and was controlled by an on-site weather station.
Hans Murman and Ulla Alberts designed the Juniper House. The optical illusion of its vanishing facade was created with a three-sided, semi-transparent cloth and steel structure. A printed photo of the surrounding juniper trees helped to disguise the house, depending upon your viewing angle.
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland consists of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, created from an ancient volcanic eruption. This visitor center creates an additional sculptural element along the landscape. “It is both visible and invisible; invisible from the cliffside yet recognizable from the land side,” firm Heneghan Peng Architects said.
A Swedish treehouse hotel hidden in the sky.
Master architect Fumihiko Maki designed the new MIT Media Lab. It’s made from over 163,000-square-feet of glass, which conceptually emphasizes the institute’s goals of collaboration amongst researchers.
This modular recording studio and part-time living space blends in with its woodsy surroundings when the doors and windows are closed.
Architects Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch created the ultimate secret garden with this invisible privacy screen.
The Optical Glass House by Hiroshi Nakamura offers a unique view of a courtyard filled with trees just beyond a glass brick wall. “The serene soundless scenery of the passing cars and trams imparts richness to life in the house,” the architect said.
The Santambrogiomilao Group’s concept house is made entirely of glass — even the furniture.
One couple’s home in the Netherlands defines private and public space with glass walls and curtains. Their formal garden is sometimes open to the public for performances, so flexible visibility was key.
The eco-friendly Pinnacle at Symphony Place in Nashville proves that skyscrapers can be unassuming.