The evolutionary growth of a city leaves traces that remain as ghost-like surface images of what once was. These palimpsests can inform us of the realities of the past and whenever spaces are shuffled, rebuilt, or remodeled, shadows remain. The 19th century floodplain of the Keelung River remains as an indelible mark on the streets and neighbourhoods of Taipei. The symbolism of the river and its importance in the development of the city, and as its source of trade, wealth and influence is celebrated in the three distinct forms of the new arts centre. Washed and eroded by water and sand, they appear as pebbles deposited randomly on the old river bed.
The canopy roof that over sails at high level, acts as a surface to diffuse and refract the sunlight, as dappled light washes through a body of water. Here the smallest of the pebbles punctures and supports the surface of the roof, as a restaurant with views across the city. Approaching the site, the streets dissolve into a series of broad channels, heterogeneous spaces that appear as if formed by the flow of water. This simple grouping of forms is the setting for the three principal spaces, the Grand Theatre and its companion Proscenium Playhouse and Multiform Theatre. Each is entered through individual foyers off the major open-air event space at their centre.
All the major spaces are visible from here including the principal stair that guides visitors to the banks of elevators that transport them up to the roof. The roof acts as a fragment of the city, made up of a series of public event spaces and outdoor gardens. Here a range of additional functions have been introduced to intensify the activity at high level. It dissolves on the western elevation into a transparent surface, where the late afternoon sun penetrates down to the ground.
This arrangement retains the ground level as a genuinely open people's space where the theatres are seen as being part of the public domain. The three major auditoria can be appreciated by those not attending performances, and are not concealed within the walls of a larger complex. Concert and theatre goers have the choice of entering the auditoria directly or travelling up to the roof, where the public event spaces, libraries and gardens are grouped together as a complex mesh of uses.
This major public building is integrated into the fabric of the city in a novel way. The city is seen as a tiered structure where the principal elements of the public building are merged and blurred to allow an unexpected degree of access. Large areas of the building are open to the public, and public areas are juxtaposed to create synergies between different uses. Libraries, shops and restaurants all profit from their proximity and free relationship to each other. The formality associated with a major cultural institution of this type is avoided and the concept of a theatrical event is revised.
Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government