Taipei’s historic Red House Theater (西門紅樓) in Ximending is celebrating its centenary today, hoping to establish itself as a hotspot for cultural and creative industries in the capital.
The octagonal-shaped two-story structure, designed by Japanese architect Kondo Juro, was built in 1908 to house the first municipal market in Taipei. It was turned into a stage for Chinese opera, plays and folk art performances after 1945 and into a movie house in the 1960s.
The theater fell into disrepair in the 1970s after a large number of Western-style movie theaters sprang up in the Ximending area. Reopened in 2000 after restoration by the Taipei City GovernmeAnt, it houses a small cafe and a display on the history of the structure on the first floor and shows live theater performances on the second floor.
Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs is sponsoring a retrospective exhibition chronicling the development of the theater starting today through Dec. 31.
Lin Hui-feng (林慧芬), executive secretary of the Taipei City Archive, said the exhibit would feature photos and documents showcasing the building’s rich history — from its start as a public market during the Japanese colonial period to its current use as a site for live performances and a crafts market.
Memorabilia such as matchboxes, posters and movie pamphlets from the Japanese colonial period will also be on display as part of the exhibition, Lin said.
Commissioner of the department Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) said the department would turn the small cafe into a teahouse with outdoor seating next month to attract more visitors. The first floor of the theater will also house a total of 16 workshops with various artists showcasing their artwork.
A pub hosting live bands will be launched in the back of the first floor next month, while a crafts market will continue to be held outside the building, with independent designers selling handmade T-shirts, jewelry and other clothing and fashion accessories, Lee said.
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