Taipei Performing Arts Center / OMA
Text description provided by the architects. Theater, an ancient art form of civic participation, has evolved into the modern world as a vocation of the culturally sophisticated, with diminished significance in everyday life. Theater space is valued for its potential for formal cultural productions, rather than for its ability to record, infer, and be immediate. Contemporary theater performances are becoming more and more standardized: a combination of two halls of different sizes and a black box, with conservative internal working principles for authentic work. Can a public theater still be inclusive, housing the classical and the casual, the highbrow and the masses, the artistic and the social – a place for everyone’s creative life?
Located at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei, Taipei Performing Arts Center is characterized by its vibrant street culture, architecture is in limbo: specific yet flexible, undisturbed yet public, iconic without being conceived as such. Three theaters connected to a central cube make it possible to link play spaces for new theatrical possibilities. The cube is lifted off the ground for a public loop to extend Taipei’s street life into the theater. New internal possibilities and connections of the theater generate different relationships between producers, spectators and the audience, also a critical mass that works as a fresh, intelligent icon.
The central cube brings together the stages, backstages, supporting spaces of the three theaters and the public spaces for spectators into one efficient whole. The theaters can be adapted or merged for unexpected scenarios and applications. The 800-seat spherical Globe Playhouse, with an inner and an outer shell, resembles a planet resting against the cube. Intersection between the inner shell and the cube forms a unique proscenium for stage framing experiments. Between the two shell layers is the circulation space that brings visitors to the hall. Slightly asymmetrical in shape and defying the standard shoebox design, the Grand Theater is a 1,500-seat theater space catering to various performing arts genres. Opposite and on the same level is the 800-seat Blue Box for the most experimental performances. When linked, the two theaters become the Super Theater – a huge factory-quality space that accommodates productions otherwise only possible in found spaces. New possibilities of theater configurations and stage settings inspire productions in unimaginable and spontaneous forms.
The general public – with or without a ticket – is invited into the theater through a public loop, which runs through the theater infrastructure and production spaces that are normally hidden. Portal windows along the Public Loop allow visitors to watch the performances inside and technical spaces between the theaters.
Unlike typical performance centers that have a front and a back, the Taipei Performing Arts Center has multiple faces defined by the theaters that rise above the ground. With opaque facades, these theaters appear as mysterious elements against the animated and illuminated central cube clad in corrugated glass. A landscaped plaza below the compact theater provides an additional stage for audiences to gather in this densely populated and vibrant part of Taipei.