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: William Pedersen FAIA (Winter 1996/97)

 


333 Wacker Drive - view with Chicago River in foreground (photo: ©Barbara Karant)

 

COMPETITIONS: When you are called on to design a ‘foreground’ building for a corporate client—although it’s usually an office building, it could be any number of building types—how do you balance the private and public interest beyond the usual zoning regulations?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

left and below
Gargoyle Club Prize
Best Architectural Thesis, University of Minnesota School of Architecture (1961)
Theme: Hospital Project


Images: courtesy William Pedersen

 

Pedersen: The interest of the client as it relates to the quantity of the construction they wish to place on a site is perhaps the most difficult issue, particularly during the 80s, when a tremendous amount of construction was taking place in the United States, and one more office building was not hailed by anybody as a contribution to society. The situation has changed rather dramatically in the 90s, when almost none of them are being built; so the issue is not as pressing. But there always is the question, ‘Is a building, given the bulk proposed, appropriate for its specific condition?’ One’s ability to deal with that issue is somewhat limited because zoning establishes what is of right, and not of right. Therefore, the battle has largely been fought prior to our entrance on the scene.

 

Past that point, the relationship of our buildings to a specific context has been a fundamental issue of our architecture. This is particularly how we take tall buildings, which are in themselves somewhat insular, autonomous and discrete, and bring them into a more social state of existence. That’s been the subject of our study for the last twenty years. We’ve developed strategies for doing that, of which I’ve spoken at length. The preoccupation of making the tall buildings—part of a more continuous, overriding fabric—that’s been central to our architecture.

 

COMPETITIONS: The most obvious argument against contextualism—as many people understand it—would be the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which has turned out to be the most visitied and popular building in that city. Wouldn’t that seem to give architects a good argument for doing something different? Was that even a lesson?

 

WP: Juxtaposition is a fundamental contextual strategy; but it has to be used sparingly and has to be introduced at exactly the right moment for it to have a powerful effect. For example, the Seagrams Building on Park Avenue—before any of the other buildings followed suit—was exceedingly powerful and very successful as a result of the juxtaposition at that particular place. I would argue that our building in Chicago (333 Wacker Drive) is an equally successful contextual building. It’s on the only triangular site of the Chicago grid at a bend in the Chicago River, and it sits within a context of totally masonry buildings, largely of the classical derivation. Somehow the relationship between those very distinct parts works. We were asked to build a building right next to 333 Wacker Drive, which did not occupy a unique geometric piece of property, but in fact became more of a continuation of the street wall leading up to 333 Wacker. We elected there to utilize a more Classical language in total juxtaposition to our own 333 Wacker in an effort to try to achieve the continuity of the wall that we thought was necessary, but also to maintain that poignancy of a juxtaposition to 333 Wacker Drive to the rest of the context. It would weaken it tremendously if it had been reproduced next door.

 

The same is true of the Pompidou Centre. If one were to tear down that section of Paris around it and build a number of Pompidou Centers there, it would lose its impact, because ifs impact is an object set within a very careful framing in that traditional neighborhood. Without the dialogue between the two, the game is over.

 


AAL Hqs. building addition (1971), Appleton, Wisconsin


AAL Hqs. original building


AAL rendering

 

COMPETITIONS: Most people seem to believe that 333 Wacker is the best building you have done. Maybe it was the time and unique site. It was one of those projects where one announces, ‘Well, here I am.’ Sometimes it’s difficult to top a wonderful building like that, though you may believe your next building is the one you like best.

 

WP: I think that 333 was a product of my sensibility at that point in time. It was a building that tended tobe an intuitive response to the site. In terms of it language, it came out of a couple of other buildings I had done immediately prior to that—one being the Aid Association for Lutherans in Appleton, Wisconsin, the other being the Brooklyn Criminal Courts Building, which had very similar geometric ideas in terms of its relationship to context. The very conscious attitude of trying to make the tall building part of a larger urban contet preoccupied us for the next five years. As a result, we used a more classical language to try to develop connecting strategies, because a Classical language is largely built on ideas of connection of pieces and parts, one to another…buildings connect well because they have parts that are combined and are part of a central language.

 

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