This week saw the press release of MVRDV‘s newest project “The Cloud” for Seoul, South Korea, a pair of luxury residential highrises joined together halfway up by a pixelated cluster programmed with public and privates spaces for retail, parks and swimming pools. The architects’ justification for the project’s formal exuberance – namely, that by raising the ground level, or plinth, a forum is created, providing new opportunities for interaction and social connectivity among the complex’s residents – was lost on several design blogs (and their readers), which saw instead a half-baked, even puerile provocation. From the ground level perspective, the towers bear considerable resemblance to the hellish images which broadcast the collapse of the World Trade Center throughout the world.
Of course, this was not MVRDV’s intent. If you want to pick a fight, see Peter Eisenman’s theoretical (and 'critical') projects for Ground Zero from 2003, which more closely articulate the physical, textural anguish of a fiery structure crashing towards the ground. Their ‘cloud’ carries all the menace of its 32-bit iteration from Super Mario Bros. Still, MVRDV should have been expecting the inevitable backlash, right? Not so, evidently, as Fast Co. points to the firm’s Facebook page where the architects offer an explanation of the design’s formal approach, saying, somewhat incredulously, they never noticed the very apparent similarity:
The Cloud was designed based on parameters such as sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city. It is one of many projects in which MVRDV experiments with a raised city level to reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper. It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks nor did we see the resemblance during the design process. We sincerely apologize to anyone whose feelings we have hurt, the design was not meant to provoke this.
The firm also posted an early conceptual drawing made early in the design process indicating the thematic direction in which the project would take.
Images courtesy of MVDRV.