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: Hodgetts & Fung (Summer 2006)

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Hollywood Bowl Renovation - Completed 2003 (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 

COMPETITIONS: Pursuing architecture as a profession apparently was not a foregone conclusion for either one of you when you began your college educations. It was somewhat of a winding road for both of you. Although industrial design and fine arts are not that far removed from the workings and aesthetics of architecture, it evidently took some time before you both decided to pursue it as a profession.

 

Ming Fung: I was always interested in the arts and in theater. Also, my background in anthropology led me to have a strong interest in how people live in a space. That interest in theater has always been in the background, in the work Craig and I do.

Craig Hodgetts: When we started our practice together, what really bonded us was this idea of human narratives, theater, and architecture as a setting for that. Ming was coming out of a background of film and theater, and I sort of came to it in a similar path, because I actually studied theater and did a lot of play writing. I got into architecture, because I wasn’t making any money as a playwright or as a scenic designer. A friend of mine had a drafting job where he was making ten dollars an hour. I thought I better learn how to draft. Then Charles Moore seduced me in terms of his humanistic view of what architecture was all about. I had no clue. There was a kind of resonance with Moore’s approach to architecture and the more theatrical approach. I think that’s a common D&A that Ming and I have: it’s not about the building, it’s about what happens in the building. You make the building frame these various scenarios, exchanges, and interludes.

There is another layer that went on top of that when we started working together, because we did do a lot of TV commercials and things like that. That brought us into contact in a serendipitous way with this incredible array of fabricators and technicians that exist in LA, and not anywhere else. That became a great resource, which came out of the theater and film background. This gave a certain flavor to the ideas that we have about how to fabricate a building.

 

COMPETITIONS: It has occurred to me that students studying architecture should be required to take a course in set design.

 

CH: We both press for that in our individual schools.

 

MF: Set design and theater lighting. Architects often don’t know how to light a building, and theater really sets the mood. There is a lot to learn from that.

CH: It can get over amplified to the point where your design becomes so particular in trying to control what people feel—which is inappropriate in an architectural framework.

 

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Los Angeles Public Library, Hyde Park - Miriam Matthews Branch (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 


COMPETITIONS: Craig, you were working in Stirling’s office before he became a star. What led you to that office, what was it like in those days, and what did you take from that experience?

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