Wednesday, March 4, 2009

square off

The winning design from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture

I must confess, I was slightly confused and disappointed when, following the cutthroat competition to design the new highly anticipated Taipei Performing Arts Center, the Netherland-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) was named the winner for their design proposal led by Kolhaas and Ole Scheeren. I figured maybe there had been some kind of miscount, some sort of absentee ballot mishap or hanging chad incident. I chalked it up to bad taste. The winning design, to me, looks dated and unimaginative.

I was a much bigger fan of the design proposal from NL Architects. Their stylish, dynamic cube design was ultra-modern without feeling overly out-of-place, alienating or abrasive to the viewer. The design is intended to be considered as a “table with ‘four legs’” supporting a “’tabletop’ that accommodates” three stories. The playful approach to form and void and the open public square in the center allows the public to participate in the design – filling the void and reshaping the architecture through their presence and interaction with the building.

NL Architects proposed design for the Taipei Performing Arts Center

On the other hand, though aesthetically sleepy, OMA’s design is functionally superior: the project calls for a 430,560-square-foot complex composed of three theaters: two that seat 800 and one that holds 1,500 (as all proposed designs contain), all of which feed into a central cube cloaked in corrugated glass. As a result, the theaters can be used separately or together in various stage combinations. The curious show-goer can also see parts of the backstage area from a public path inside the cube, while the entire building is placed on a pedestal in order to preserve the existing local food market on the site.

The NL Architects design respectfully boasts a public browsing space with cultural facilities such as a multimedia library, music stores, galleries, lobbies, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs, balconies and terraces with of swimming pools, a skate area, playground and garden. However, while these amenities have their appeal, the intelligent design of the OMA proposal creates exponential possibility for space utilization.

The Taipei Performing Arts Center project, which is budgeted at $112.8 million, is scheduled for completion in 2013.

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