(From the Archives, 4/7)

Having lived in Berlin before moving to Taiwan, I was happy that the Berlin theatre ensemble Schaubühne was coming for their production of Édouard Louis’ “History of Violence.” We were joking a bit that we had to move across half the planet and take a 360km ride south to finally get some tickets.

The performance was great! It took place at Kaohsiung’s “Weiwuying” National Center for Arts and I was wowed by its architecture.

Weiwuying was built until 2018 by the Dutch architect office Mecanoo under Francine Houben in a 470.000sqm park on the land of a former military training base. With its 141.00sqm the building is the world’s largest performing art theater under one roof, bringing together different theaters, a concert hall, and an opera house.

Like trunks of the iconic banyan trees with their wide canopies of leaves, the performance halls are surrounded by the Banyan Plaza. It is designed as a public space and indeed, as we where there, kinds were playing in the waving area while a Taiwanese man played on a piano.

Kaohsiung is a city of 3m with one of the world’s biggest harbors. Like similar cities – Hamburg and Rotterdam come to mind – it faced an interesting identity change, slowly exchanging air pollution and a tough working culture for a growing white collar workforce and a cultural foot print. The design of Weiwuying was inspired by this history just as the less exclusive philosophy focusing on the broader public. “The Banyan Plaza should have the detailing of a cargo ship, and not of a luxury yacht.”

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