© Shawn Liu Studio
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The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts symbolizes the transformation of Kaohsiung, once a major international harbour, into a modern, diverse city with a rich cultural climate. The design is located on a former military terrain, as an integral part of the adjacent subtropical park to have a positive social impact on the residents of Kaohsiung, whose population counts almost 3 million.
The open, protective shape of the local banyan tree becomes a springboard for the design. Their iconic, wide crowns provide shelter against sun and rain and are a perfect expression of Kaohsiung's humid atmosphere. The building’s expansive sheltered crown becomes the Banyan Plaza, a generous, sheltered, partially enclosed public space. Designed with the subtropical climate in mind, the open structure allows the cooling wind to blow freely through Banyan Plaza.
Between the four formal performance halls, which form the ‘trunks’ that support the undulating roof, a topography rising from ground level to plus five metres becomes part of the park’s landscape. Residents can wander through here day and night, practise Tai Chi or stage street performances along walkways and in informal spaces. An open-air theatre nestles on the roof where the structure curves to the ground, with the surrounding park forming the stage. The seamless flow between interior and exterior creates opportunities for crossovers between formal and informal performances.
The vast, undulating structure is composed of a skin and roof and connects an extensive range of functions. The curved steel structure was built in cooperation between a local and a Dutch shipbuilder. The Centre’s iconic canopy — a billowing plane of architectural fabric akin to a tectonic plate — forms the conceptual foundation of the project. This undulating roof is a marvel of structural engineering, with one side scooped out to form a beautifully landscaped amphitheatre for a plethora of outdoor performances.
7 hectares of landscape, balanced between hard and soft landscaping accommodate event spaces and logistical access while creating a gradient of green towards the neighbouring Weiwuying park.
Inside, curving walls expand and contract like the branches of a banyan tree, creating organic spaces for playing, making, viewing art and taking in performances. The scale of the project is virtually unprecedented, yet the character of each space remains welcoming and accessible to its inhabitants.