In Taiwan, the electrifying architecture of the Taipei Performing Arts Center


The Taipei Performing Arts Center, a project designed by OMA, the agency of Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, in Taiwan, on March 14, 2023.

At the bend of an artery in the night market of Shilin, a center of social life in Taipei, where young couples crowd on Friday evening around the stands of grilled sausages, oyster omelettes or succulent tofu skewers, a gigantic silver sphere is revealed, as if suspended above the void. Embedded in a luminescent black cube, in the middle of a vast esplanade, its contours dissolve into darkness. It was the Taipei Performing Arts Center (TPAC), the first building made in Taiwan by OMA, the Dutch agency Rem Koolhaas, who designed the building with his partner, David Gianotten.

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To grasp it in its entirety, it is necessary to take the field. On either side of the ball, on the adjacent faces of the large cube, a trapezium is profiled on the left and a parallelepiped on the right. These three cantilevered volumes signal the presence of three performance halls whose respective tiers they enclose. The stages fit together inside the central block which also houses, protected by an undulating glass wall, the technical rooms, rehearsal rooms, offices… So many autonomous spaces equipped with their own operating rules, lighting and specific opening hours, which make up on the surface of this cube, whose edges measure 54 meters, a patchwork of variable light intensities with colors ranging from white to orange, black, bronze…

With the TPAC, Taipei offers itself its first specimen of spectacular architecture, of those that have been seen flourishing all over the world since the beginning of the 21st century.e century, when the success of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, validated the idea that a cultural institution with a “signature building” could boost a region’s economy and its diplomatic influence. First to launch, during the 2000s, the city of Taichung, in Taiwan, first bet on Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) for a museum project which was abandoned, before turning to the Japanese Toyo Ito whose beautiful Opera was finally delivered in 2016. Two years later, on the other side of the island, the Dutch agency Mecanoo signed the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung, and today the projects of media architects from abroad are spreading all over the country. They relay a soft power that the institutions deploy quietly through the partnerships and co-production agreements they develop internationally.

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