April 21, 2022
Taipei’s Monumental Music Center Revitalizes Urban Space and a Rapidly Changing Industry
“Our attitude towards the project wasn’t just to address the music industry, but to make it integral to the city so that it would be a public space,” says Reiser, which was in line with Nangang’s revitalization efforts.
Having converted from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-oriented economy, Taipei’s urban development plan called for a makeover of the district, referred to by locals as “Black Town” because of the thick, black smoke emitted by heavy industry factories in earlier years.
“We couldn’t and didn’t want to take cues from the building context,” says Reiser, “but rather how this complex would fit into the gorgeous natural landscape.”
The plan included Nangang’s transformation of underutilized land and turning the district into a complex with offices, hotels, exhibition areas, recreational facilities, shopping centers and the addition of parks and green spaces.
During the design phase, however, the government handed over control of the project to representatives of the music industry, which precipitated major changes according to Reiser.
“We essentially started over after a year and a half once the government initiated the project,” he says adding that the main hall with its fan-shaped auditorium is a departure from RUR’s initial proposal, which consisted of only a 3,000-seat indoor arena and a tower.
“The music industry and their representatives had completely different ideas about what they needed and wanted to work with.”
Their changing needs reflected a broader shift in the music industry around that time, with live shows and online services replacing album sales as the primary sources of revenue.
But it wasn’t only changes in scope that delayed the project, which was originally scheduled to be complete by 2014.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, the Taipei city government experienced problems with construction procurement due to the music center’s distinctive design and the resulting challenging construction. Moreover, the government had to recoup a funding shortfall, agreeing to a budget increase of approximately 33 percent to NT$6.079 billion (US$210 million) in 2019 — $10 million more than the music industry generated in revenue in the same year.
On its website the design atelier declares the final measure of architecture lies not in quantities but in the myriad qualities it exhibits and affords over time.
Reflecting on the statement, Reiser says that the stage setting aspect characterizes the quality of the TMC’s architecture.
“It was almost like designing the Oscar statuette,” says Reiser. “We don’t know which groups will be elevated or which performers will emerge on the site. So, we’re simply creating the situation for the music industry, the people and the public to mount their own events in it.”
To mark the project’s completion, and bring its decade-long saga to an American audience, RUR Architecture’s exhibition Lyrical Urbanism: The Taipei Music Center is on view at The Cooper Union in New York where it will run until the end of April.
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