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Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film


The Cinema Center in Busan, South Korea, designed by Wolf D. Prix – COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. The annual Busan International Film Festival (PIFF) has established itself as a prominent and representative film festival for Asia. Aiming to create a multi-functional event location which permanently houses the PIFF and also provides an attractive public institution for the region, an international architectural competition was launched in 2005. The team of Coop Himmelb(l)au was awarded the first prize.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-03-759x506 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

The design suggests a new intersection between public space, cultural programs, technology and architecture as a vibrant landmark within the urban landscape as an icon of contemporary culture. Planned are a total of four overlapping zones. Their appearance differing according to their functions: Multiplex-Centre (Cinema Mountain), headquarters PIFF (PIFF Hill), public space (concourse Double Cone) and the outdoor amphitheatre (BOWL). Various roof elements acting as a virtual sky connect the objects and zones to a multifunctional public urban space.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-05-759x514 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au


With the aim of “placing” the city of Busan on the world map the Korean government decided in 2005 to organize an international competition to design the new headquarters of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). The project’s goal was twofold, and that should serve both to become an icon of the city as to bring the BIFF among the 3 most important film festivals in the world attracting an important branch of revenue for the city. The contest was won by the Austrian study Coop Himmelb (l) au, led by Worl D. Prix.

This project provides a new intersection between public space, cultural programs, entertainment, technology and architecture creating a vibrant landmark within the urban landscape. LED saturated outdoor roof elements acting as a virtual sky connect building-objects and plaza-zones into a continuous, multifunctional public urban space.

The concept envisions an urban plaza of overlapping zones including an Urban Valley, a Red Carpet Zone, a Walk of Fame and the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Canal Park. The urban plaza is formed by building and plaza elements sheltered by two large roofs that are enabled with computer programmed LED outdoor ceiling surfaces.

The larger of the roofs includes a column-free cantilever of 85 meters over a multifunctional Memorial Court event plaza. The urban zones of the complex are formed by individual and recognizable building objects placed below the outdoor roofs. The building objects contain theater, indoor and outdoor cinemas, convention halls, office spaces, creative studios and dining areas in a mixture of sheltered and linked indoor and outdoor public spaces. The design of these spaces supports flexible, hybrid functionality that can be used both during the annual festival period and day-to-day use without interruption.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-10-759x502 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au


  • The basic concept of this project was the discourse about the overlapping of open and closed spaces and of public and private areas.
  • Light installations on the roof, coordinated with a wide variety of events organized by the BIFF or the City of Busan, can be programmed by artists and light designers to present fully animated graphics.
  • While the movie theaters are located in a mountain-like building, the Center’s public space is shared between an outdoor cinema and a huge public space which is called Red Carpet Area – i.e. reception area.
  • The Red Carpet Area is actually three-dimensional: across a ramp which leads along a double cone the guests of honour reach the reception hall. Each of the two areas is overarched by a huge roof, one of them measuring 60 x 120 meters – the size of a soccer field – and cantilevering 85 meters.
  • The Busan Cinema Centre sandwiches a 4000-seat outdoor cinema between the two halves of the building
  • The column-free roof measures 85 metres from end to end..The cantilevered part of the roof with its 85 meters is twice as long as one wing of the Airbus 380.
  • LED lights glow from behind the canopy’s glass underside, creating a rainbow of colours over the heads of visitors and guests arriving across the public square at the front of the complex..A funnel-like structure punctures the roof on one side, while a ramp spirals around it to create a red carpet route into the reception hall in the south-eastern block.
  • A triangulated metal lattice clads this column, concealing a cafe at ground floor level and a staircase leading to a bar and restaurant above..
  • An indoor cinema and theatre are contained within the north-western block and are stacked on top of one another..
Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-14-759x447 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

Concept Design:

Working always with the aim of providing the city of Busan with a piece of iconic architecture that would go around the world like he did in his day the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the study Coop Himmelb (l) au design opted for a risky, so risky that not only capture the attention of all the criticism for their aesthetic beauty, but also go into the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest cantilever to date .

As a whole the complex aims to redefine the traditional relationship between public spaces, private, culture and technology, making them all live in harmony not as separate elements but as part of a complete project.

Visitors can move from a closed to an open space without realizing it, sometimes develop the same activity. As in a conventional museum happen to a room above the Busan Cinema Center tours are blurred and merge with the city, the idea of blurring boundaries between public and private, between when the show begins and ends.

For its part the underside of the large overhang that covers the public square was designed as a rolling cloud that breaks the straight lines instead of the city and transform the building itself on canvas on which to project their content. A work by the changing nature of art will not be the same way twice.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-16-759x499 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

Architecture and Cinema-the Main Roof:

The dynamic LED lighting surface covering the undulating ceilings of the outdoor roof canopies gives the Busan Cinema Center its symbolic and representative iconographic feature. Artistic lighting programs tailored to events of the BIFF or the Municipality of Busan can be created by visual artists and displayed across the ceiling in full motion graphics, creating a lively urban situation at night, but also visible during the day.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-18-759x506 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

Double Cone, Café and Roof Restaurant:

The Double Cone is the symbolic landmark entrance element to the Busan Cinema Center and serves as the connective element between the Cinema Mountain and the BIFF Hill. Designed as a steel web drum on top of a series of radial concrete fin walls, the Double Cone also is the only vertical structural support for the large cantilevered roof acting as a large, singular column.

Cinema Mountain:

The Cinema Mountain is a multifunctional building containing both a 1,000 seat multifunctional theater with fly-tower and full backstage support, and a three-screen multiplex comprised of a 400-seat and two 200-seat Cinemas. Separate entrances and foyers are provided for theater and cinema respectively, however the foyers and circulation are designed so that they can be combined depending on operational preferences.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-23-759x506 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© public domain

Urban Valley / Outdoor Cinema:

The Urban Valley combines a flexible flat ground surface and large stepped tribunes of the BIFF Hill as seating for a 4,000 seat Outdoor Cinema. The Valley is sheltered by a large sculpted outdoor roof with an LED ceiling surface and is oriented towards a flexible stage and screen area on the outside of the Eastern façade of the Cinema Mountain. Accommodation for purpose built projection screens, stages, loudspeaker and lighting arrays are provided allowing for exterior performances to share the interior theater’s backstage facilities.

BIFF Hill:

The BIFF Hill is a ground surface formation creating the tribune seating space of the outdoor cinema and accommodating the concourse, the convention hall, the BIFF-center, the BIFF-offices and the visual media center. Given the flexible organization of the ground plan, it can be easily adapted to the different requirements during festival and day-to-day usage.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-24-759x506 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© public domain

Red Carpet Zone:

During the BIFF festival, or for other special events, the Red Carpet Zone is created by a special drop-off and media-event processional entrance at the Double Cone entrance element. A red carpet can be extended from the Double Cone event space and photo position to the south through the park and along a pier. VIP’s can enter from limousines along the street edge, or arrive by boat from the pier. Various options are provided for the red carpet circulation from the Double Cone to the different event and performance spaces depending on the scenario preferred, including a vibrant spiralling ramp from the staging level of the event space to the VIP restaurant lounge of the upper roof or to the BIFF Hill and Cinema Mountain on upper levels of the foyers. During non-event periods the Red Carpet Zone acts as the symbolic entryway into the Busan Cinema Center complex.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-25-759x506 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© public domain

Memorial Court & Walk of Fame:

The Walk of Fame contains the Memorial Court as a public plaza. The proposal is to imbed sources in the ground surface projecting holographic images of the stars, directors, producers and the like who have been made a part of the Walk of Fame. Their avatars inhabit the memorial court as permanent residents; however their programs can be changed to show variable aspects of information over time or in relation to specific BIFF-events.

BIFF Canal Park:

The BIFF Canal Park is proposed as an extension of the open network of public programs into the planned riverside park, and as a linking element between the river and the cinema complex. A new pedestrian footbridge is proposed to connect the Busan Cinema Center site with the park across the Boulevard to the South connecting the Double Cone with the APEC Park.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-06-759x950 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au:

“Once we build architecture like aircraft wings we will no longer need columns. The cantilevered part of the roof with its 85 meters is twice as long as one wing of the Airbus 380.”

The project, Wolf D. Prix / COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s first in South Korea, addresses the theme of the roof as an architectural element – a topic which COOP HIMMELB(L)AU has been concerned with for a long time. Already in the Renaissance and the Baroque era the roof is transformed into a cupola, thereby achieving a particular significance. But it was Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier who define the roof not anymore as a mere element of protection, but as a frame for the most diverse concepts. In Niemeyer’s house in Rio de Janeiro the roof is no longer following the floor plan, but is framing the view on the surroundings and nature. The roof of the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille of Le Corbusier is itself a landscape through its sculptural articulation.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-04-759x499 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

Based on these ideas COOP HIMMELB(L)AU developed the roofs of the BMW Welt in Munich and of the Busan Cinema Center. The construction as a column-free roof covering a space comes closest to the idea of a “flying” roof, which is further differentiated by its three-dimensionally articulated ceiling and therefore not only a horizontal projection screen.

Coop Himmelb(l)au’s design for the Busan Cinema Center, which serves, among other things, as the site of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), represents a new combination of culture, entertainment, technology, and architecture with a public space. The concept envisions an urban center with superimposed areas: the Urban Valley, the Red Carpet Zone, the Walk of Fame, the Memorial Court, and the BIFF Canal Park. The buildings house theaters, cinemas, a conference center, offices, production studios, and restaurants, whose spatial boundaries flow into one another in a mixture of protected interior spaces and outdoor spaces, the largest of which also functions as an outdoor cinema with seating for 4,000 people.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-02-759x510 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Coop Himmelb(l)au

This open urban center, which is framed by the opaque functional areas on the plaza, is spanned by two large roofs fitted with computer-controlled LEDs. The larger of the two roofs projects a column-free, 85-meter cantilever over the Memorial Court. A multifunctional events center in the form of a double cone serves as a symbolic structure for the entrance. Designed as a steel-lattice shell sitting on spanned concrete slabs, it represents the only vertical supporting structure for the large projecting roof.

Busan-Cinema-Center-Busan-International-Film-By-Coop-Himmelblau-30-759x569 Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© public domain

Project Data:

Project name: Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film
Location: Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Coordinates: 35.171351, 129.127203
Type: Theatre and Auditorium

  • The main materials used in the project are the concrete and steel structural elements and glass plates and stone veneer for exterior finishes.
  • The cantilevered deck has in turn with an installation-art LED’s bottom that allows the building to transform itself into a visual spectacle.


  • Multifunctional Theater: 900 seats
  • 3 Cinemas: 600 seats
  • Outdoor Cinema: 4000 seats


  • Site Area: 32,100 sqm
  • Gross Floor Area: 58,000 sqm
  • Gross volume: 183,000 sqm
  • Footprint Area: 10,000 sqm

Project Year: 2005-2012
Competition Year: November 2005 (1st Prize)
Planning: January 2007
Construction Year: 2008-2011
Status: Built
Grand Openig Date: September 2011, 29
Cost: 100 Million EUR
Completion Year: 2012
Visit Busan Cinema Center’s website:  here
Visit Busan International Film’s website: here


  • 2012 World Architecture Festival Award – Category: Culture – Shortlisted
  • 2011 BUSAN Architecture Awards – Grand Prize
  • 2007 The International Architecture Awards – THE BEST NEW GLOBAL DESIGN

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Municipality of Busan
Architects: COOP HIMMELB(L)AU – Spengergasse 37, A – 1050 Vienna, Austria
Design Principal/ CEO: Wolf D. Prix
Project Partner: Michael Volk
Project Architect: Günther Weber
Design Architects: Martin Oberascher, Jörg Hugo
Project Team:

  • Sergio Gonzalez, Rob Henderson, Guthu Hallstein, Matt Kirkham, Veronica Janovska, Dieter Segerer, Markus Baumann, Jasmin Dieterle, Anja Sorger, Jana Kucerova, Jan Brosch, Ivana Jug

3D Design: Renate Weissenböck, Jan-Ruben Fischer
Model: Paul Hoszowski, Ernst Stockinger, Vincenzo Del Monaco, Johannes Spiesberger, Marcus Ehrhardt, Hyoung Sub, Marc Werner

Competition Team:

  • Victoria Coaloa, Rob Henderson, Paul Hoszowski, Jörg Hugo, Irakli Itoni, Alex Jackson, Matt Kirkham, Shannon Loew, Mona Marbach, Jens Mehlan, Tom Wiscombe, Burcu Bicer, Etienne Chanpenios, Monika Heliosch, Akvile Rimantaite

Local Partner:

  • Heerim Architects & Planners, Seoul / Korea: Jeong, Young Kyoon; Eu, Sung Mo; Lee, Mog Woon; Kang, In Soo; Kim, SeoniI; Shin, Dong Young; Chang, Hyo Sup

Structural Engineering:

  • B+G Ingenieure, Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH Frankfurt / Vienna, Germany / Austria: Klaus Bollinger, Jan Lüdders, Daniel Pfanner, Astrid Münzinger, Jürgen Asmussen Jeon and Partner, Seoul / Korea: Jeon, Bong-soo, Yoon, Heum-hak, Kim, Dong-gwan, Ms. Nam, Jung-hwa, Lee, Jang-hong, Ms. Han, Hye-hwa, Kim, Seung-a, Yi, Joon

Mechanical, Electrical Engineering: Arup, Berlin, Germany: Bryan Cody, Till Pasquai, Tobias Burkhart, Akif Berkyuerek

Lighting Design: Har Hollands, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Wind Studies: Wacker Ingenieure, Birkenfeld / Germany: Jürgen Wacker, Michael Buselmeier
Façade Consulting: Face of Building, Oberpullendorf / Austria: Johannes Stimakovits, Harald Weidinger
Theater Consulting: Artec, New York / USA: Tateo Nakajima, Ed Arenius, Ted Pyper
Text Description: © Courtesy of  Coop Himmelb(l)au, Busan Cinema Center, bollinger-grohmann
Images: © Coop Himmelb(l)au, ISOCHROM, Nathan Willock

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Busan Cinema Center & Busan International Film / Coop Himmelb(l)au
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