Construction of the Taipei Performing Arts Center, designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and intended as a new cultural landmark, began yesterday on the former site of the Shilin Night Market.
City officials hope the arts center will boost the city’s cultural significance upon its scheduled opening in 2015.
The project, initiated in 2003 during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) term as Taipei mayor, will be one of the biggest arts centers in Taipei once it is completed, and will house one cube-shaped theater with 1,500 seats and two circular 800-seat theaters.
However, the choice of site has been criticized, as some have challenged the decision to place a performing arts center next to a night market.
Ma discussed the problem of finding a suitable location while attending the center’s groundbreaking ceremony yesterday. He said the site, which is next to the MRT’s Jiantan Station, offers a convenient location with easy access to public transport.
Once it is completed, the arts center will serve as a major venue for arts and cultural performances in northern Taipei, while the National Theater and Concert Hall will remain the major performance venue for the southern area.
Together with the “Grand National Palace Museum Project,” which will enlarge the museum’s exhibition space fivefold, the president said, the arts center will help make the city’s northern district a “cultural zone.”
“The Performing Arts Center will become a new landmark, not only in Taipei, but also in Asia and even in the world. It will help boost cultural development in Taiwan and make us the pioneer in the development of Chinese culture [sic],” he said.
Koolhaas, discussing the design of the building, shared Ma’s confidence in blending the arts center into its environs, saying that the vitality of the adjacent Shilin Night Market was the main inspiration for the design.
The exterior of the building was described as looking like “tofu with preserved egg” when Koolhaas’ team unveiled the design in 2009.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday defended the design of the building, and said the “public loop,” which exposes the backstage to the public and allows people to view the different theaters and watch rehearsals, will offer the audience a more complete experience of theater production.
According to Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the center will be completed in November 2014 and begin operation in 2015.