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(Yonhap Feature) With film fest over, how will Busan put its new cinema center to use?

By Jeff Liebsch
Contributing writer
BUSAN, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- Throughout the run of this year's Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), one of Asia's largest and most prestigious cinematic events, thousands of visitors passed under the graceful, undulating roof of the city's just-unveiled Busan Cinema Center.

   But now that the festival has wrapped for the year and the crowds have gone home, many wonder how the city of Busan will put its newest landmark to use.

   Luckily, the structure's world-renowned architect, Wolf D. Prix, already has a vision in mind, one that he hopes is reflected in the design.

   The new center will become a communication hub for the city, he said in a series of interviews. The interior, for example, is like a "3D movie with many attractions to see that your subconscious will pick up," he said.

   Prix conceived of the space as "a new intersection between public space, cultural programs, entertainment, technology and architecture, creating vibrant landmarks within the urban landscape," according to a statement from the firm.

   While the complex was built specifically for the festival, Kim Seung-up, the CEO of the Busan Cinema Center, sees plenty of opportunities other than film screenings.

   "Besides movies, we will make Busan Cinema Center a multipurpose cultural complex, putting together performances and exhibitions," he said. "We have a plan to gradually develop opera and musical performances as well."

   Though the facility opened in time for the Oct. 6-14 film festival, it is still not fully completed. A planned restaurant and some minor work have yet to be finished.

   Once the outside walls are torn down, the building will open to the public as a performance, dining, entertainment and administrative space.

Wolf D. Prix (L), who designed the Busan Cinema Center, receives Busan City's honorary citizenship on Sept. 29. (Yonhap file photo)

Upon its Sept. 29 opening, the 167.8 billion won (US$157 million) Busan Cinema Center won high praise from local residents and officials.

   "It is a piece of art," said Busan Mayor Hur Nam-shik.

   Park So-young, 24, a student and self-proclaimed film enthusiast, echoed the sentiment. "It is an amazing looking building," she said. "I'm very proud to have it in our city. It really puts Busan on the international map."

   The signature of the structure is its roof, which Prix said his team has been working on for years "as signature and symbol for activity."

   The size of one and a half football fields, the gargantuan roof is being considered for listing in the Guinness World Records.

   The center's architectural excellence, however, was marred by leaks during the film festival. City officials said they will delay a series of performances that were scheduled to celebrate the center's opening by a couple of weeks for repair and maintenance. They will be in full consultations to make sure architectural highlights remain unchanged, they said.

Nighttime view of the Busan Cinema Center. (Yonhap file photo)

Local resident Kim Heo-yeon was disappointed by the news. "This is the pride of Korea and the landmark of Busan. However, it's too bad that Busan City showed poor management during the BIFF season by opening it hastily," Kim said.

   The center was the first foray into Asia by Prix's Vienna-based company, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and it proved difficult for him and his team to culturally understand the architecture of Korea.

   "Since I started, I didn't know the cultural background. I had to find it out," Prix said. "It took me 20 or 30 years to find mine. It was tough."

   After winning the bid to build the center back in November 2005, construction began in Busan's Centum City area three years later, scheduled for the 2011 grand opening.

   Now that the structure is open, he is thankful to the Busan City Government for having the courage to take a chance and not use American-style commercial architecture, a movement that he considers best left to the past.

   He also noted that he hoped to return someday to Korea work on another project.

   "I'm very happy. I like the name 'Dynamic Busan' very much," Prix said, referring to the city's tourism slogan. "We would like to do more projects in Korea, but that is not ours to decide."