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Taipei Pop Music Center aims to be a 24-hour attraction

Taipei Pop Music Center design contestAfter beating two other contenders in a fierce competition, the United States firm Reiser + Umemoto RUR Architecture PC was announced final winner in the design competition for the Taipei Pop Music Center in a press conference held in Taipei on January 29.

Jesse Reiser, co-founder of the RUR architecture firm, told reporters after the press conference that the team proposes a synthesis of park, theatre, and public space, and that their design will create a coherent public space distinct yet connected to life and the city.

"It's not only a pop center, but it's a place where everyday life can really unfold,” he said, “The center won't be an empty stadium, but Taiwanese culture will fill the space.”

Taiwan plans to build the island's first pop music performing center in northern Taiwan in Nangang District with an outdoor performing plaza to support development of the pop music industry in Taiwan.
The goal is to make Taiwan the leading center of the Chinese creative music development.

Jesse ReiserThe principal design for the Music Center comprises an indoor performing hall with 4,500 to 6,000 seats, an outdoor performing space for an audience of 15,000, a hall of fame, a digital library, medium and small indoor exhibition rooms, live performance houses, industrial communities, and a space for company incubators. Total construction budget is NT$3.5 billion.Winning team RUR

The transformer design
A Gradient of mixed-use spaces, from the fully public realm to the interior of the auditorium, allows the visitor to partake of the event in a dynamic way however they choose to visit this complex. Whether they plan a night of music or just browse the myriad shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants, the complex will be a 24-hour attraction independent of the schedule of performances in the theaters, RUR said in a written statement submitted to Taipei City Government.

According to Reiser, the team proposed creating a new elevated public space, which will bridge the two building sites presently divided by Xinsheng Rd. Bridge. Above the space a track will be built, which will not only allow buildings to move without restriction, but also allows flexibility in the use of the hall.

In addition to a main auditorium that, from the outside looks like a piasa bird reaching out to the sky, the team has designed a “mobile stage” for the design project.

The mobile stage, or the robot theatre, consists of a digital hall of fame and a super box. Because of its light material, the super box is designed to be transformed into larger or smaller shapes, earning the name “transformer” in the Chinese-language daily newspaper.

There will be LED panels installed on the three sides of the hall of fame, and images of Taiwan’s old and new singers' faces. The LED lighting in the panel will continue to change.

"So the hall of fame won’t be frozen in time,” Reiser explained, “the design for the Music Center is an icon of the music industry and the artist.”

For the design project, Reiser said he has listened to a lot of Taiwanese music, and that he found it very interesting.
Taiwan’s music scene is very much rooted in Asia, yet it is evolving in its own way, he said. “But we really don’t know how Taiwanese music will be in three years, that’s why we chose not to do a huge monument, but to focus on a design with functionality for less money.”

Working on a design project for the Alishan Mountain area, Reiser said he had been back and forth to Taipei for the past five years. “The city grows on you, especially the complacence of its night life.”

When asked by local reporters how he felt after winning the design contest, Reiser said it represented a high point for his team, and he thanked them for their dedication. RUR was set up by Reiser and his wife Nanako Umemoto, also an architect, in New York in 1986.

David Taylor, leader of the Performing Arts Sector, Americas, who is a member of the design team, said that what made RUR stand out from the other two contenders was the number of musicians in the team. "The design did not just involve architects, but musicians as well, so we are not just looking from the outside,” he said.

Fierce competition
Taipei City Government announced last August that it would invite renowned architects from here and abroad to join a competition to design the island's first pop music center in the city's southeastern Nangang District. The center would serve as a venue to foster a vibrant music industry for Taiwan.

A 7-person jury led by Lars Lerup, chairman and dean of the Rice School of Architecture in Houston was set up to help Taipei City Government decide on the winner.

Other members of the jury included Brett Steele, director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in the United Kingdom; Michael Speaks of the University of Kentucky College of Design; Kris Yao, ROC representative and principal of Artech Architects, in Taiwan; Kung Shu-Chang, ROC representative and principal of AURA Architects and Associates, in Taiwan; Monica Kuo, ROC representative and dean of the College of Environmental Design at Chinese Culture University, in Taiwan; and Liu Wei-Gong, ROC representative and assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Soochow University, in Taiwan. Yao later resigned to avoid affecting the decision-making because a relative was working with one of the three finalists.

On October 23, 2009, the city government made public the names of three finalists and four honorable mentions from a total of 114 entries from 30 countries. Reiser + Umemoto RUR Architecture PC was among the three finalists; the other two contenders were Studio Gang Architects (US) and Office dA (US).

RUR is best-known for its design of O-14 in Dubai; Studio Gang is best noted for its Aqua Tower design in the U.S., while Office dA is famous in architecture circles for the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Belgium.

The four honorable mentions include Morphosis Architects chaired by Thom Mayne (US); Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects (Japan); JDS Architects directed by Julien de Smedt (Denmark); and J.M. Lin Architect, P.C. (US) jointly with The Observer Design Group headed by Zhenguo Cheng (Taiwan).

Lerup said at the press conference that the jurors developed a very close working relationship, and that they all learned a lot from the decision-making. “Our work showed that people from very different cultures can cooperate and reach a consensus,” he told reporters.

Juror Kung Shu-Chang said at January’s press conference that RUR’s design contained a very “futuristic thinking.” “The digital hall of fame, the robot stage, and the main auditorium design are all very unique,” he said. But he expressed worry about the establishment of the underground live performances houses, saying he’s worried whether artists in the music world would appreciate the design.

"The Music Center design is also a test for government agencies,” Kung said, adding that the execution and implementation of the design will be vital to completing the project successfully.