The opening of the Weiwuying National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts reflects the government’s efforts to return former military facilities to the public domain, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said at the inauguration ceremony yesterday.
“The establishment of an arts center at this location symbolizes the lifting of martial law and our efforts to promote greater access to culture,” Tsai said.
In a historical context, the center can be seen as a symbol of “democratization of space,” with Weiwuying, once a military training base under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, returned to the public, she said.
Photo: Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times
“Our predecessors in Taiwan fought persistently against authoritarianism and left formidable landmarks of resistance and compromise across the island,” she said.
The establishment of Weiwuying did not come easy, Tsai said, adding that it took 20 years of work by non-government actors to make the project a reality.
Hopefully, the southern arts center would improve access to culture, so that residents would no longer have to travel long distances to Taipei to see world-class performances, Tsai said.
Building the first national performing arts center in the south took 15 years from planning to completion and cost NT$10.75 billion (US$347.78 million at the current exchange rate).
Dutch architectural firm Mecanoo was inspired for its design by the sinuous canopy created by clusters of banyan trees commonly found in southern Taiwan, the center’s Web site said.
The single sweeping building is spread over 141,000m2, making it the world’s largest performing arts center under one roof, as well as Taiwan’s most significant cultural investment in a generation, it said.
“We have aimed to deliver a flagship cultural destination for Taiwan, a beacon to attract performers and audiences from around the world,” Mecanoo Architects founding partner Francine Houben said.
Highlights of the building include a 2,260-seat opera house and a 2,000-seat concert hall designed to look like a vineyard, with seats rising in serried rows, like vines on a sloping terrace.
The structure also houses a flexible theater that can seat between 1,094 and 1,254 people, depending on its configuration, and a 470-seat recital hall.
An outdoor performance space can accommodate audiences of up to 20,000 people.
Weiwuying is to operate under the umbrella of the National Performing Arts Center, which also includes Taipei’s National Theater and Concert Hall and the National Taichung Theater.
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