Taipei Performing Arts Center / OMA
Text description provided by the architects. An ancient art form for civic participation, theater has evolved into the modern world as a vocation of refined culture, with its importance in daily life diminished. Theatrical space is appreciated for its power of formal cultural productions, rather than for its power of inclusion and diversion, and of being instantaneous. Contemporary performance halls are becoming increasingly standardized: a combination of two differently sized auditoriums and a black box, with conservative internal operating principles for authentic work. Can a public theater still be inclusive, accommodating the classical and the hazardous, the intellectual and the masses, the artistic and the social – a place for the creative life of all?
Located in Taipei’s Shilin Night Market marked by its vibrant street culture, the Taipei Performing Arts Center is an architecture in limbo: specific yet flexible, uninterrupted yet public, iconic without being designed as such. Three rooms connected to a central cube make it possible to couple performance spaces for new theatrical possibilities. The cube is lifted off the ground for a public loop to extend Taipei street life to the theater. New possibilities and internal connections in the theater generate different relationships between producers, spectators and audience, also a critical mass that functions as a fresh and intelligent icon.
The central cube consolidates the stages, backstage, support spaces of the three theaters and public spaces for the spectators into a single and efficient whole. Theaters can be modified or merged for unsuspected scenarios and uses. The 800-seat spherical Globe Playhouse, with an inner shell and an outer shell, resembles a planet docked against the cube. The intersection between the inner shell and the cube forms a unique proscenium for experimenting with scenic framing. Between the two layers of shells is the circulation space that brings visitors to the auditorium. The Grand Théâtre, slightly asymmetrical in shape and defying the standard shoebox design, is a 1,500-seat theatrical space for different genres of performing arts. Opposite and on the same level is the 800-seat Blue Box for the most experimental shows. When coupled, the two theaters become the Super Theater – a massive space with factory quality that can accommodate productions that are otherwise only possible in found spaces. New possibilities of theatrical configurations and stage sets inspire productions in unimaginable and spontaneous forms.
The general public, with or without tickets, is invited into the theater through a public loop, which passes through the theater infrastructure and production spaces that are usually hidden. Portal windows along the public loop allow visitors to watch the performances inside and the technical spaces between the theaters.
Different from the typical performance halls which have a front side and a back side, the Taipei Performing Arts Center has several faces defined by the theaters protruding from the floor. With opaque facades, these theaters appear as mysterious elements against the animated and illuminated central cube clad in corrugated glass. A landscaped plaza under the Compact Theater is an additional stage for audiences to gather in this dense and bustling part of Taipei.