National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts | The Plan
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National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts

Local cues for a wide cultural program

Mecanoo Architecten

Ambitious arts centers are proliferating in cities around the world but too often they are commissioned as civic trophies, intended to provoke awe, as castles and cathedrals still do. They come alive for only an hour or two, as people arrive and depart from a concert or play, and programming lags far behind what was planned, in quality and frequency. Weiwuying, the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, is the largest of its kind, but also the most welcoming. It is located in a sub-tropical port city in the south of Taiwan, and is intended to complement Toyo Ito’s National Taichung Theater, and Taipei’s National Theater & Concert Hall. Mecanoo won the competition for Weiwuying in 2007 with a design that was inspired by the leafy canopy of a banyan tree, opening up to a park on all four sides. It takes its cues from the city, the culture, and the climate; an urban amenity that seems to flow out of the landscape like a range of hills. On her first visit to the site, Mecanoo principal Francine Houben observed how the city came alive in the twilight hours. As the air cools and the humidity becomes less oppressive, people stroll the streets, shop for groceries, and eat outside. Under canopies and trees, informal performances occur: people dance, play music, perform plays, or practice Tai Chi. She conceived the roof of Weiwuying as an undulating wave shading a huge public plaza, supported on the trunks of four theaters, and dipping on one side to become an outdoor amphitheater. It functions as an extension of the park - created from a former military training base - where people can gather to eat, drink and socialize into the evening, even if they are not attending a performance. And the surrounding spaces have been landscaped with gentle slopes, winding paths, and fountains to mediate between the sensual curves of the roof and the urban grid beyond. The rectilinear block measures 225x160 m and encloses 141,000 sq. m of usable space in the auditoria,...

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