Taipei Center for the Performing Arts / OMA
Text description provided by the architects. Theatre, an ancient art form of civic engagement, has evolved into the modern world as an invitation to the culturally refined, with its importance waning in everyday life. Theater space is valued for its capacity for formal cultural production, rather than for its ability to embed and transform, and to be instant. Contemporary performance theaters are becoming increasingly standardized: a combination of two different sized auditoriums and a black box, with discreet internal operating principles for authentic work. Can public theater remain inclusive, accommodating classics and serendipity, intellectuals and masses, artistic and social – a place for the creative life of all?
Located in Taipei’s Shilin Night Market and with vibrant street culture, the Taipei Center for the Performing Arts is an architecture in limbo: specific yet flexible and undisturbed but generic and imaginative without being conceived as such. Three theaters connected by a central cube allow the exhibition spaces to be linked for new theatrical possibilities. The cube was raised off the ground for a public loop to extend the life of Taipei Street in the theater. The theater’s new internal possibilities and connections generate different relationships between producers, spectators and audiences, and it is also a critical mass that acts as a new and intelligent symbol.
The central cube unites the stages, back stages and support spaces of the three theaters and public spaces for spectators into one efficient unit. Theaters can be modified or combined for unexpected scenarios and uses. The 800-seat Globe Playhouse, with its inner and outer shell, resembles a planet sticking to a cube. The intersection between the inner shell and the cube forms a unique theater of experiment with the framing of the stage. Between two layers of shells is the circulation space that brings visitors into the hall. The Grand Theatre, somewhat asymmetric in shape and defying the standard shoebox design, is a 1,500-seat theater space for various types of performing arts. Opposite it and on the same level is the 800-seat Blue Box for most demos. Coupling the two tracks, the two theaters become the Super Theatre – a huge, factory-quality space that can accommodate productions only achievable in existing spaces. New possibilities for stage configurations and stage settings inspire productions with spontaneous and unimaginative forms.
The general public – with or without a ticket – is invited to the theater by a public loop, which passes through theater infrastructure and usually hidden production spaces. Entrance windows along the public ring allow visitors to catch a glimpse of the performances inside and the art spaces between the theaters.
Unlike typical performance centers that have a front and a back side, the Taipei Center for the Performing Arts has multiple faces defined by the theaters projecting above the ground. With opaque facades, these theaters appear as mysterious elements against a moving and luminous central cube clad in corrugated glass. The landscaped plaza below the compact stage is an additional stage where the audience gathers in this dense and vibrant part of Taipei.