By Natasha Levy
Dutch practice Mecanoo is putting the finishing touches to an arts centre in the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung, which plays host to a selection of opera houses, concert halls and an open-air theatre set into its bulging roof.
Situated on a former military training base, The National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts will be the latest addition to the city’s growing cultural scene when it opens in October this year.
Externally the building appears as a slim, rectilinear volume that has been sliced in half. It is anchored by five chunky columns, each containing a different performance space.
Among them is a 2,260-seat opera house, a “flexible” playhouse that can seat between 1,094 and 1,254 guests depending on the arrangement of the stage, and a 2,000-seat concert hall complete with what will be the largest organ pipe to be built in Asia.
There will also be a smaller, 470-seat recital room, better suited for chamber music and solo recitals.
For the design of the building’s protruding steel roof, Mecanoo referenced the bulbous crowns of locally grown Bayan trees.
The roof’s long elevation also curves down to the ground to form a concave open-air theatre. Connecting the centre to the surrounding park, this theatre alongside the adjoining grounds could be used to host events with up to 20,000 guests.
“Inspired by the beauty of the local Banyan trees with their iconic canopies of leaves, the vast, undulating structure is composed of a unique skin and roof under which generous free spaces can flow,” said a statement from Mecanoo founder Francine Houben.
“We have aimed to deliver a flagship cultural destination for Taiwan, a beacon to attract performers and audiences from around the world.”
At three points the roof is punctuated by rectangular openings that encourage cooling winds to blow through the venue, counteracting the typically subtropical climate.
Directly beneath sits the aptly named Banyan Plaza, intended to act as an informal public space where visitors can gather, walk around and view street performances.
Jo Shih Architects recently won a competition to design another cultural centre in Taiwan – a new art museum for the city of Taoyuan, which will feature sloped green roofs.
Photography is by Iwan Baan.
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