This an international competition entry for a major Performing Arts Center in Taipei, Taiwan consisting of a 1,500-seat grand theater, an 800-seat proscenium theater for repertory performances and an 800-seat experimental black-box theater on a site adjacent to the vibrant Shilin Night Market: a locus of Taipei youth culture and popular tourist attraction.
The Performing Arts Center was conceived of as a literal extension of Shilin Night Market with loading and parking areas located at the basement level and theaters, support spaces and administrative functions primarily above the ground level, allowing the market function to occupy the remaining ground plane as an organic accretion of shops, stalls, and spaces for street vendor carts, with interconnected passageways and open-air access to the perimeter sidewalk. This public zone flows into the theater lobbies and along three-dimensional circulation routes leading to a publicly accessible park on the roof of the building. The volumes that contain the three theaters are treated as discrete spatial anchors around which public space flows.
The building is wrapped in a glass curtain wall with an outer “smart skin” that serves to insulate the building and promote natural ventilation and includes integrated photovoltaic cells that act as a solar screen to reduce heat load and glare while generating electricity. By day, the building appears quite, reflective, sheltering, reclusive; a modest backdrop for the day-to-day activities of the entry plaza and life on the surrounding streets. At night the skin dematerializes becoming a diaphanous veil that reveals the life behind the façade while an integral matrix of LED lights transforms the building into a media screen projecting imagery related to performances and events and creating a dialogue with the urban milieu. The skin visually morphs into a green roof with topography conforming to the volumetric order within the building.
The soft geometry of the building is evocative of the site’s history as a river course as well as sine waves of music, the wushu (martial art) and dance movements as depicted in Taiwanese opera, the contours of the regional landscape, and the geodesic movements of people through the city and the building. The multi-form theatre is given a unique character and prominence by being elevated and rotated away from the established structural order to express its function as an experimental space intended to challenge the very institution that it accommodates. Cantilevering over the entry plaza it can be read as a lantern that beacons passers-by to enter and participate in the spectacle within.
The title of our project: “大餅包小餅” (Mandarin: “Da Bing Bao Shiao Bing”, translated as “big cookie wraps small cookie”), is the name of a food item that was invented at the Shilin Night Market by two street vendors, one of which was selling a large flat “cookie” similar to a crepe, the other selling a smaller compact “cookie” (literally “bun”) with various fillings. Instead of competing with each other the vendors decided to combine the two cookies into a novel food item that has since become locally famous and synonymous with the Shilin Night Market experience. We adopted this as our title as an expression of our ethos, to underscore our conception of the Taipei Performing Arts Center as integral to Shilin Night Market and to illustrate our approach to the building’s programmatic arrangement and spatial organization: In our logic, the big cookie refers to public space that is egalitarian, universal, inclusive, inviting, and enfolding; a human-scaled free-zone where every visitor is a participant in a real-time performance on a virtual stage set for spontaneous, unscripted events. By contrast, the small cookie refers to semi-public and private space that is ordered in a strong hierarchy, wherein access is controlled and movement restricted. Like the Shilin inventors of 大餅包小餅, our objective was to bring these two modes of space together to create a spatial order tastier than the sum of its parts.