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Performing Arts Center | 2008

Taipei, Taiwan A Mountain of Theaters Mega-Scale: The Anticipation of a (More) Vertical Taipei Like all Asian cities, Taipei has undergone tremendous growth in the last decade, symbolized not only by Taipei 101, the worlds tallest building, but also by the rapid proliferation of banal residential towers, perhaps the worst fall-out, architectural speaking, of the high powered Asian economy. While more and more people find adequate housing, cities are becoming less and less captivating, as the global migration of capital seems to often do more damage than good. Nonetheless, a pressurized vertical ecology of architecture offers the city density and a kind of sustained energy that is at the heart of urban life. The particular site for the Taipei PAC is a case study in shifting scales, witnessed by the 45-50 meter tall neoclassical apartment buildings that now line the South and West streets bordering the site. While the Shilin Market to the north has resisted the infiltration of the high rise type, the fall of the low rise city around it indicates a trend toward large scale future developments. Indeed, the TPAC site is pressured by such widespread architectural conservatism, a phenomena that is dramatically countered by Qixing Mountain to the East, a verdant green surface with little built incursions. Given the near schizophrenia of the site (lush green vs beige postmodernism), surely a powerful reason to choose this location, we

have proposed a scheme that rises to a height of 57 meters (top of the Grand Theater fly tower) as a way to challenge the vertical dominance of the perimeter blocks. This decision has other positive benefits (as will be stated later), yet it is the anticipation of an even taller city that inspires such logic. Quite opposite in both form and emotion, Qixing Mountain is the other form of verticality, a topographic mass that we h ave recognized as being an important element in determining our site response. The slope away from the site footprint has been mirrored in the East facing perforated faade of our scheme, essentially setting up a corridor of space between the rail station, the green mountain, and the Shilin Night Market to the North. In fact, the low rise portion of our scheme simply flows from the major mass of the TPAC toward the market as way to continue not only a finer scale but also the 24 hr life of the city. Taken together, the market, Qixing Mountain, and the pressure to respond vertically, all conspire to shape this lively, populist program for 21st century arts experiences. POPulist Motivations As clearly stated in the project brief, the TPAC status as a cultural center is that of a hyper accessible, populist venue, enjoyed by all levels of society. Unleashed from any old-world connotations, performing arts in the 21st century must in fact compete with the quicksilver, repetitive world of digital entertainment. Here, because of live action, bodies moving in the theater of visceral experiences, architecture is actually an equally vital organism, shaping experience

before, during, and after the performance. When multiplied by a motivation toward verticality, the populist discourse of the program is an x factor that suggests spectacle on the one hand, the temptation toward aggressive formalisms, and on the other, a project that is egalitarian in its disposition. Our scheme attempts to merge these tendencies, to bring into focus the project of the icon with the project of the surmountable mass. Like a ball of string, we have sought to make a coherent form through the accumulation of variably scaled events. -

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