Wed, Apr 29, 2009 - Page 4 News List

FEATURE: Taipei City hopes to boost its profile with buildings by renowned architects

CULTURE CONCEPTS World-renowned architects have been invited to spruce up Taipei with designs for a performing arts center, a pop music center and more

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

A model of the Taipei Performing Arts Center is pictured in this undated photo. The center is designed by Ole Scheeren and Rem Koolhaas.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAIPEI CITY’S DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS

Several years ago, German architect Ole Scheeren and Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas made a splash when they unveiled their bold design for the China Central Television Tower and Television Cultural Center in Beijing.

A building with their signature design will soon appear in Taipei after the architects won an international bid in January to build the Taipei Performing Arts Center. And the Taipei City Government is hoping the big names will help boost the city’s international profile.

Shaped like a cube with a protruding sphere on one side, the building uses the concept of a Rubik’s Cube and its rotation, and is expected to become a landmark upon completion in 2014.

The center will be located across from Jiantan MRT Station, near the Shilin night market.

Presenting a scale model of the building earlier this month in Taipei, Scheeren said the density and vitality of the Shilin night market was the main inspiration for the design, adding that he expected the arts center to blend into the area and become a space for theatergoers and others.

“[The concept of the building] includes the density of the night market, the traffic and even the smell of the food. It suggests the coexistence of two different cultures simultaneously, low culture and high culture,” he said.

The arts center will house a 1,500-seat theater and two 800-seat theaters on a 2.2-hectare plot and will serve as a venue for major, long-running performances.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) compared the arts center to the Sydney Opera House in Australia and said he hoped the building would boost the city’s profile and attract tourists.

With the aim of improving Taipei’s aesthetic appeal, the city government has been trying to attract world-renowned architects to design buildings that make statements.

To build the Taipei Performing Arts Center, the city government held an international design competition for the project last year, inviting Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, to head the selection committee.

The budget for the building was more than NT$4.5 billion (US$133 million), about 15 percent of which went to the architecture firm.

Hau said the city government was willing to invest in innovative architecture.

“We want the best team and we would rather spend some money to make these new buildings great assets for the city,” he said.

The Taipei Songshan Tobacco Culture Park is another project that will be carried out by an internationally renowned architecture firm.

Toyo Ito, one of the most influential architects in Japan, was commissioned to design a 1.2-hectare building in the park, which will be situated on the abandoned 7.2-hectare Tobacco Plant site in Xinyi District (信義).

Part of the project’s NT$8.6 billion budget will be used for new construction, but another part will be used to restore historical buildings at the plant, while an indoor sports dome will be built next to the park, the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs said.

Department Commissioner Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) said the building would serve as an innovative venue with multiple uses including a shopping area, hotel and recreational space for the public, helping transform the old plant into a vital cultural landmark in the city.

The city government will also invite international architectural teams to design two other cultural facilities, the Taipei Pop Music Center and the Taipei City Museum, she said.

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