Taichung Tower 2 Competition

A Final Building Block for the Taichung Cultural Center


Night view of tower ©Elizabeth de Portzamparc

 

Everyone is well aware of the measures one encounters when entering almost any tower, residential or office, in this era of high security. We are not just talking about protecting the occupants of a residential highrise, but rather the separation of workers from the street and the community at large. The Taichung Tower is intended as the antithesis to this concept of isolation, encouraging interaction at different levels, within the workplace, as well as access, though limited, to the community at large.

 

Taichung, certainly one of Taiwan’s most forward-looking cities, has just completed a final competition to complete the ambitious Taichung Cultural Center complex—a tower to replaced Sou Fujimoto’s abandoned winner of the initial Taichung Tower Competition (below). The Fujimoto scheme was shelved based on the high construction estimates for his revolutionary scheme—by some accounts doubling the anticipated budget.

A second try seems to hold more promise: the winning entry by Elizabeth de Portzamparc from Paris would seem to meet the requirements of the challenge while staying within the allowable budget guidelines.

Hardly a conventional tower, the building addresses the transition from the city and park to the tower with a ramping program, replete with greenery, intended to make it “an extension of the city.” More important, it addresses the current priorities centered around the new workplace, replacing isolation with a more open concept, both organizationally, as well as intellectually.

 

Except for the entry by Fei & Cheng Associates, the tendency to soften the impression of a simple ubiquitous tower motif with vegetation can also be observed in the other three entries—by applying various methods of façade penetration.

 

©Sou Fujimoto Architects

 

This tower will be the final major component in a plan incorporating a new Cultural Center by SANAA and a linear park by Catherine Mossbach and Philippe Rahm—both the result of competitions.

 

If these three components are to meld into a cohesive plan, one might assume that some fine-tuning may have to occur to address the interconnectivity to the linear park landscape plan. Whether this will occur still remains to be seen.

 

The competition was a two-stage, invited competition; the other finalists were:

 

  • T.C.K. Architect Engineer Planner + AZUSA SEKKEI co., ltd (Taiwan/Japan)
  • FEI & CHENG Associates + Che Fu Chang Architects + Chien Architects and associates (Taiwan)
  • Y.C. Hsu Architect & Associate + Moriyama &Teshima architects (Taiwan/Canada)
  • Kengo Kuma &Associates (Japan)

 

The jury was made up of nine professionals, two of which were Americans, with the remaining seven being local.

 

Winner
Elizabeth de Portzamparc
with Ricky Liu & Associates


View to tower from park ©Elizabeth de Portzamparc

 

The scheme by Elizabeth de Portzamparc would seem to address all of the issues that are in the forefront of the minds of current designers when improving the workplace atmosphere: “This tower has been designed with the ambition to become a reference in terms of technological connections and develoopment of human interactions.” The processional ramp from the city leading up into the main entrance of the building is a welcoming gesture to the community.

 

   Also, by allowing some access to different areas of the tower for the public, the idea of grand isolation is reduced to a minimum—at least in theory. The designer also goes to great lengths to label the horizontal levels as “neighborhoods,” even suggesting that this idea somehow ties it together vertically. Since we don’t have a jury report, it might be assumed that the replacement of a simple platform at grade with a terraced configuration as pathway led to a serious discussion of its merits—and approval. Moreover, this was not to be just a simple viewing platform, but a working office environment.

 

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Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.

 

 

Interview: Mark Robbins – Port of Kinmen Competition Juror (2014)

with Stanley Collyer

mrobbins01


COMPETITIONS: I’m not certain how familiar you were with previous competitions in Taiwan; but this one had much in common with previous ones, in that it was also international in format.

 

MARK ROBBINS: They are quite high profile for remarkably large-scale projects.

 

COMPETITIONS: This is similar to the others, and, like those, had two sessions. Were you able to take part in both of them?

 

MR: Yes. It was on Kinmen Island, which I had never been to. And it has an interesting history. First of all, the U.S. government has had to figure out the deaccessioning of the bases that were military. This is a large island that had been used for military purposes, for although it is part of Taiwan geographically, it is closer to the Chinese mainland and was shelled pretty relentlessly. But because it had been closed off to development during this period, it had a very natural environment—it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any area in Taiwan.

So the redevelopment of this becomes quite important, because you have an island, which is now strategically located, interestingly not for military reasons, but commercial reasons. This is expected to make it valuable because of the robust commerce between a Mainland China that still finds they can get a greater variety of consumer goods in Taiwan. Rather than flying goods in, it will be by boat, which is slower, but less expensive. So it will become a vast duty free area. And that was part of the motivation for this competition—to make a more accessible gateway for trade to and from Mainland China.

 

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Port of Kinmen winning entry

 

COMPETITIONS: Biodiversity caused by the lack of development during the Cold War brings to mind a similar situation in Germany on the demarcation line between East and West, where a large restricted strip on the eastern side of the border resulted in an untouched refuge for birds and various species.

 

MR: One seldom thinks of that. In Kinmen there are some of the best-preserved architectural artifacts, both from the Japanese colonial period and from earlier Chinese trading families. There are a series of buildings that have neoclassical detailing, but built around traditional courtyards in a Chinese format. These were families that wanted to display their wealth in the 1800s, through symbols displayed by western architecture. Because of the Cold War period and the lack of development, these were also preserved.

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