A grand opening ceremony and concert last week signaled the official debut of Taiwan's new National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts, Weiwuying—the world’s largest, single-building performing arts center set under one roof. The futuristic structure symbolizes Kaohsiung’s transformation from a major international harbor and military training base into a modern metropolis that's rich in culture and diversity. Dutch studio Mecanoo designed the arts center as part of a larger plan to make a positive impact on the urban and social fabric of Kaohsiung, a city of nearly three million people, as well as enhance the environment and beauty of the subtropical park in which it's located. Known as one of Taiwan’s most noteworthy cultural speculations in history, the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is impressive for its state-of-the-art performances spaces, which comprise 35 acres of land. The remarkably unorthodox structure includes an outdoor theater, a 434-seat recital hall, a 1,210-seat playhouse, a 1,981-seat concert hall, and an impressive 2,236-seat opera house. The colossal building, along with its open spaces, will undoubtedly serve as the cultural hub of East Asia, as it merges high-quality art and performance with openness and accessibility. The design was inspired by Taiwan’s local Banyan trees and their gigantic canopies of leaves. The roof of the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is equally expansive, and its unique, undulating skin connects various portions of the building and performs a wide range of functions. Beneath the roof is the Banyan Plaza, a huge sheltered public space that encourages pedestrian interaction and informal public organizations. An open-air theater connects the curvy roof to the ground, with the surrounding subtropical parkland serving as the stage. “Weiwuying is one of Mecanoo’s most ambitious buildings and embodies all the key elements of our philosophy,” wrote Francine Houben, a founding partner of Mecanoo, in a statement. “We have aimed to deliver a flagship cultural destination for Taiwan, a beacon to attract performers and audiences from around the world.”
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One of architect Frank Gehry’s earliest public buildings collapsed this month as it was nearing the end of a five-year, $55 million renovation, forcing the owners to revise their plans. The roof of the Merriweather Post Pavilion, a 19,000-seat open-air concert venue in Columbia, Maryland, crashed down in the middle of the night on Saturday, January 13, burying the seating below. No one was injured. Designed by Gehry, Walsh and O’Malley, and opened in 1967, the concert pavilion was being renovated to help it compete with other performing arts centers. The design team, led by JP2 Architects of Baltimore, opted to keep the original roof because it was a defining element of Gehry’s design. But the designers also wanted to raise it to improve sightlines. Gehry, now head of Gehry Partners, is not part of the design team, but had been briefed on the project and toured the site several years ago. The roof collapse makes the concert pavilion one of the first major Frank Gehry buildings to be substantially lost or altered -- despite the owner's efforts to retain its architectural integrity throughout the renovation. The roof was in the process of being raised on hydraulic lifts 20 feet above its original height when it collapsed. The pavilion’s operators said this week that they intend to build a new roof in time for the summer concert season, and that it will be at the 51-foot height to which the original roof was being moved. Investigators have not disclosed a cause for the collapse, but there has been speculation that wind was a factor. The chairman of the pavilion’s operating company, Seth Hurwitz of I. M. P., alluded to that possibility in a message on Facebook. “The winds of fate prevailed and decided that, instead of simply raising the roof, we should just go ahead and build a new one,” he wrote. “Was not our decision but the bright side is all the money we save on imploding.” Hurwitz added that “everything will be ready for season opening,” with the first show scheduled for July. One of the first buildings to open in Columbia, the 50-year-old concert pavilion is now a key element in a multi-phase expansion of the unincorporated city led by its master developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation. Hughes transferred ownership of the pavilion in 2016 to a nonprofit group, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. Gehry had an office in Baltimore when he designed the pavilion, one of four structures in Columbia that he worked on for developer James Rouse. Another one of his commissions, the former Rouse Company headquarters, has been converted to a mixed-use development with a Whole Foods Market as its anchor tenant. Gehry could not be reached for comment about the roof collapse.
It is not uncommon for projects to change over time, but the performing arts center planned for the World Trade Center site has undergone many iterations. It has been tweaked, downsized, refocused, delayed, and at one point, possibly re-located to another site. Now, the New York Times reported that the center has been whittled down from a four-stage arts complex housing multiple cultural organizations—including the International Freedom Center, Signature Theater, the Drawing Center, and the Joyce Theater—to a multidisciplinary arts space with just one main stage. The Joyce Theater is the only remaining organization that will still be part of the center, though it will not be based at the World Trade Center site as previously planned. The next step is to find an artistic director who can oversee center and curate its programming. Frank Gehry has been working on the design of the center, but the recent changes have called for him to scale it back. Once costs and programming are nailed down, the preliminary board will move forward with fundraising efforts. Right now, though, it looks like the center won’t open its doors until 2017 or 2018.