Can a public theatre still be inclusive – accommodating the highbrow and the masses? The new Taipei Performing Arts Centre by OMA takes the stage and says 'yes'

By Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, OMA

An ancient art form for civic participation, theatre has evolved into the modern world as a vocation of the culturally refined, with its significance in daily life diminished. 

Theatre space is valued for its potency for formal cultural productions, rather than its power to include and divert, and to be instantaneous. 

Contemporary performance theatres increasingly become standardised: a combination of two different-sized auditoria and a black box, with conservative internal operation principles for authentic work. 

Can a public theatre still be inclusive, accommodating the classic and the serendipitous, the highbrow and the masses, the artistic and the social – a place for the creative life of all?

Located at Taipei’s Shilin Night Market marked by its vibrant street culture, Taipei Performing Arts Centre is an architecture in limbo: specific yet flexible, undisrupted yet public, iconic without being conceived as such. 

New theatrical possibilities

Three theatres plugged into a central cube allow performing spaces to be coupled for new theatrical possibilities. 

The cube is lifted off the ground for a public loop to extend the street life of Taipei into the site.

New internal possibilities and connections of the theatre generate different relationships between producers, spectators, and the public, also a critical mass that works as a fresh, intelligent icon.

The central cube consolidates the stages, back stages, support spaces of the three theatres, and the public spaces for spectators into a single and efficient whole. 

The theatres can be modified or merged for unsuspected scenarios and uses. 

Globe Playhouse

The spherical 800-seat Globe Playhouse, with an inner shell and an outer shell, resembles a planet docking against the cube. 

Intersection between the inner shell and the cube forms a unique proscenium for experimentation with stage framing. 

Between the two layers of shells is the circulation space that brings visitors to the auditorium. 

The Grand Theatre, slightly asymmetrical in shape and defying the standard shoebox design, is a 1500-seat theatre space for different performing arts genres. 

Opposite to it and on the same level is the 840-seat Blue Box for the most experimental performances. 

Super Theatre

When coupled, the two theatres become the Super Theatre – a massive space with factory quality that can accommodate productions that are otherwise only possible in found spaces.

New possibilities of theatre configurations and stage settings inspire productions in unimagined and spontaneous forms.

Public Loop

The general public – with or without a ticket – are invited into the theatre through a Public Loop, which runs through the theatre’s infrastructure and spaces of production that are typically hidden.

Portal windows along the Public Loop allow visitors to look at performances inside and technical spaces in between the theatres.

Different than typical performance centres that have a front and a back side, Taipei Performing Arts Centre has multiple faces defined by the theatres protruding above ground.

With opaque facades, these theatres appear as mysterious elements against the animated and illuminated central cube clad in corrugated glass.

A landscaped plaza beneath the compact theatre is a further stage for the public to gather, at this dense and vibrant part of Taipei.

Credit list

Taipei Performing Arts Centre, Shilin District, Taipei
Partners in charge
Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten
Paolo Caracini, Inge Goudsmit, Daan Ooievaar
Competition phase – partners in charge
Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, in collaboration with Ole Scheeren
Architect of record
Kris Ta, Artech; partners in charge – Kris Yao, Willy Yu
Acoustic consultant
DHV and Theo Raijmakers (Level Acoustics & Vibration), SMW
Structure, MEP, building physics, fire engineer
Services engineer
Heng Kai, IS Leng and Associates Engineers
Lighting consultant
Chroma 33
Sustainability consultant
Segreene Design and Consulting
Geotechnical engineer
Sino Geotech
Construction phase – project director
Chiaju Lin
Design development phase – project architects
Ibrahim Elhayawam, Adam Frampton
Project architects
Adam Frampton, Mariano Sagasta Garcia, André Schmidt
Theatre consultant:
dUCKS Scéno, Creative Solution Integration
Landscape designer, interior designer:
Inside Outside
Structural engineer
Evergreen Consulting Engineering
Fire engineer
Taiwan Fire Safety Consulting
Facade engineer
Landscape consultant
International Engineering & Construction; Sun-Sea Construction; Ancang Construction

Designed by: Cultural and inclusive

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Individual photography credits

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