Last week, South Korea announced that it will build the first ever invisible skyscraper. The proposed Tower Infinity will use cameras and LED screens to disappear. Think about that for a second…
We usually hear about countries building the next tallest skyscraper all the time, but this a break from that narrative. And that is really cool. Not only is this latest skyscraper aiming to use technology to create the appearance that it is invisible to the naked eye, it won’t even be one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.
This is classic opposition strategy by GDS Architects:
At this point we’d probably entered about 20 or 30 competitions, and I remembered looking at the competition briefs. All of them, it seemed, wanted whatever building it was to be a landmark. I thought to myself, ‘How can we have that many landmarks?’ So we took this idea, kind of as rebels, to take the concept and reverse it. We wanted to redefine what it meant to be a landmark.
From our perspective, Korea is an advanced nation. It doesn’t need to show off. It doesn’t need to fall into the meaningless race of building the tallest building. It could, but why? So, we thought, we’d do the opposite — make it disappear!… We thought we could use this to showcase Korean technology — it would be a magical thing to make such a large building disappear. [Charles Wee, to Forbes]
There is one key insight here: Creating a unique and compelling narrative that only South Korea can tell.
It also helps that the current narrative behind building skyscrapers is to “build the tallest building”. It is tired and implies more of the same. This is the type of situation that favors a change of narrative because herd behavior is so obvious.
I’ve talked about the power of the opposition strategy, which is one great way to stand out and differentiate by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. An opposition strategy is usually the result of challenging long held assumptions of how things are done.
Why keep on doing the same? What is unique about doing another “landmark building”.
As you can see from the quote above, the GDS Architects questioned the assumptions of building another landmark, and instead turned their attention the narrative South Korea can tell with their own unique building. Again, this is the power of the opposition strategy, instead of opting to doing more of the same, it denies long held assumptions to build a unique point of view.
Bottom line: There is always an opportunity to change, but none more obvious that when an industry is stuck in a tired old narrative. If the current narrative doesn’t fit what you want, change it.