Part landscape, part architecture, the 141.000m2, National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts tucks a collection of 4 performance halls beneath a 35-acre artificial terrain that rolls like hills. Floating at one end of a park that had been a military base, the complex—the largest performing-arts center under one roof—seems to ooze from below its immense lid, blurring the boundaries between indoors and out, solid and void. Mecanoo created an undulating middle realm between roof and ground that provides access to four indoor auditoria while remaining open to breezes and views of the park on all sides - the Banyan Plaza.
Inspired by the large banyan trees that grow on the site and provide welcome shade, with their long, arching branches, we enveloped this interstitial space in a curving steel canopy that slides down to wrap around the elliptically shaped theaters. Called Banyan Plaza, it provides a cool retreat from the subtropical sun and frequent rains—a place where anyone can come to do tai chi in the morning, jog in the afternoon, or watch films projected on its underside in the evening. It defines the cultural center’s public space. This fusion is also evident in the outdoor amphitheater - where the roof, which incorporated the tiered seating, touches the ground to allow the green space to become the stage. Given the complex formal language, we created a parametric building model with the "Digital Project" program developed by Frank Gehry's office in order to better cope with the planning changes.
Environmental qualities & sustainability:
A built-up roof resting on a steel frame buffers the performance halls underneath from the sound of rain and outdoor noise while etching an eye-catching profile against the horizon and acting as the projects’ fifth facade. As for the materialization of the skin, we decided to use steel plates rather than poured-in-place concrete to envelop Banyan Plaza’s curvaceous spaces and enclose the performance halls. Large steel springs behind the steel skin act as dampers and allow the building envelope to move independently of the structure during seismic events and storms. Using steel panels in the high-traffic public plaza also reduced maintenance issues. A mechanical plant for the entire complex is placed underground to reduce noise. For the same reason, engineers specified a displacement ventilation system, with ducts in the floors supplying conditioned air at low velocities to cool the space around theater-goers. Large openings into the roof above bring daylight.
Integration in its environment & benefits to the community:
With 2.7 million inhabitants, Kaohsiung is the largest port city in Taiwan and one of the largest in the world. The cultural centre in the 65-hectare WeiWuYing Metropolitan Park seats 6000 people in its opera house, playhouse, concert hall and recital hall. Such a programme need a lot of space, but it's extraordinary that such a building - 225m long, 160m wide and up to 36m high - fits so naturally into both the surrounding city and park. The complex reflects Kaohsiung’s transformation over the past 15 years from a harbor city to a diverse metropolis, where parks and cultural facilities attract well-educated Taiwanese and offer tourists a reason to visit. During the 12 years, it took to design and build Weiwuying, the local and national governments have connected the city to the capital, Taipei, and to Taichung, via high-speed rail, and opened a subway system for Kaohsiung.
The factors that distinguish Mecanoo's design is its response to the location and its open invitation to anyone and everyone to use the building. Our futuristic re-interpretation of the banyan tree is central to the form concept, the local shipbuilding industry was brought into the project, and the street theatre and colour of the local culture inform the offer of the Banyan Plaza. The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts opens up public realm that draws the city's people, not just performance tickets -holders, into the structure itself. And as for performance, the auditoria are world-class for formal works, but anyone can enjoy informal acts in the plaza, or popular concerts in the park. This is more than a grand and elegant building for the elite - it is for the people.
Programme: Theatre complex in the Wei-Wu-Ying Metropolitan Park with a total capacity of 5861 seats: Concert Hall 1981 seats, Opera House 2236 seats, Playhouse 1210 seats, Recital Hall 434 seats, exhibition space of 800 m2, rehearsal/education halls for music and dance, 2 congress halls with 100 and 200 chairs and stage building workshops. Including 7ha landscape.
Mecanoo officially founded in Delft in 1984, is made up of a highly multidisciplinary staff of creative professionals. The team includes architects, engineers, interior designers, urban planners, landscape architects, and architectural technicians. Discovering unexpected solutions for the specifics of programme and context is the foremost challenge in all of our assignments. Each design is considered in terms of its cultural setting, place and time. Within the practice are knowledge centres which enable us to stay current on technological and design innovations in sustainability, eco-engineering, technology, education and learning, high-rise and mobility. Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, context, urban scale, and integrated sustainable design, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch.
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