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: Axel Schultes (Spring 1997)

 

with Stanley Collyer

 


Bundeskanzleramt Berlin Competition (1996); Completion (2000) Photo: courtesy Schultes Frank Architekten

 

COMPETITIONS: In our last conversation, we talked about the whole issue of Berlin's identity and what approach one should use in reconstructing the urban fabric between East and West—where the wall used to be.

 

Axel Schultes: Maybe I learned something during a recent lecture I gave in Palermo (Italy). Afterwards, some German specialists in philosophy and German thinking—brilliant people, I must say—came up to me and said, 'What you said about Berlin and what you are doing there with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleiamt), for us is what Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin talked about, especially when they looked at Italy and the cities in Italy. We noticed immediately in your work that (same) issue of porosity.' Both used this term: Benjamin wrote a small article on Naples, and Bloch wrote about Italy as a whole.

 

We always had a tendency to avoid the term, 'transparency.' Transparency is usually the use of glass to make buildings less alienating to someone outside. But for us, glass is no material to create spaces; so transparency as we see it is depths of spaces or layering. Porosity is something much more precise—what we strive for. We wanted the same effect in Friedrichstrasse (Interior Mall): it should not be this close-up thing of the Galeries Lafayette (Jean Nouvel) or Ungers, where you only have some holes in it. Porosity for us is like a sponge—to enable a building to fill up with life, to turn a private space into a public one by penetrating it with a public space. The old buildings in Berlin are examples of this, with two, three, sometimes even four interior public spaces.

 


Berlin Baumschulenweg Crematory (1993)

 

 

COMPETITIONS: You are referring to the interior courtyards (Hinterhöfe)?

AS: Yes. Nothing of this sort exists anymore in Berlin. Most buildings (at the street) are flat, sometimes elegant, sometime ugly. The Galeries Lafayette, with all its glass, is as closed (to the outside) as one of Unger's sandstone buildings. It's the same issue in the construction of every building. Take, for instance, the Berlin Schloss (the palace in the center of Berlin), which was completely demolished after WWII, and which some people think should be resurrected. This has been on our mind constantly.*

 

It would be such a contrast to urbanism—needing to punch holes in it to get inside—open to all the people and all walks of life. I can give many examples of this, for me very northern, very restrained, very alien to everything which infuses a culture with life. All the people here like Kohlhof, Ungers, Kleihues, etc.; all have that tendency of closing. Even Libeskind—and maybe he doesn't think about it or want to have it appear in such a manner—does it with the Jewish Museum where there is no penetration. There is always this hiding, this animosity to the urban fabric. They are not interested in breaking it up.

 


Bonn Art Museum - Competition (1985) Completion (1992)

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