Andrew Taylor tweeted today that he would be speaking about theater spaces this week in Taipei and linked to a video of the Taipei Performing Arts Center.
At first I thought Andrew was going to be speaking there, but then realized the building hasn’t been completed yet.
Watching the video, I was interested to see that the design by Rem Koolhaas addresses many recent discussion points about how building design can either engage or alienate audiences. Starting at around 1:35 the video talks about how the street runs right into the building. Even more intriguing is the inclusion of a “Public Loop” which allows the general public to pass through and apparently peek in on the different performance and production work spaces around the building.
I imagine they would have to have some well trained staff present to prevent flash photography of a performance while allowing passersby to view what was transpiring. But more importantly than that, it seems to allow the public an opportunity to see what transpires backstage in the scene shop, costume shop and perhaps even in the fly system of a theater.
The public loop doesn’t seem to be comprised entirely of darkened hallways that visitors shuffle through. There appear to be open spaces where visitors can sit and relax for a time.
One element that came as a bit of a surprise was their “Super Theater” configuration mentioned around 4:30. It allows them to take down the walls between two of the spaces to create a massive warehouse like space. They cite the fact that B.A. Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten requires a 100 meter stage. (Yes, that is right, approximately the length of a football field.)
The building exterior is rather strange looking and has its detractors. My immediate concern was if the difficulty and cost of transforming the building might make such a transformation more of an aspiration than a reality.
As I wrote this post, I recalled another transforming theater, the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. It turns out that facility was also designed by Rem Koolhaas so his company has some experience with this process. As you can see in this video, it takes 11 stagehands six hours to transform that the Wyly Theatre. I imagine Taipei might require more people and closer to a day, but that probably isn’t an impediment.
I wrote about the design of the Wyly a few years back. As you can see in the video where Joshua Prince-Ramus explains the design, that building also highly flexible and has many engaging elements to it. It allows people to enter or exit through its very walls, or perhaps even sit outside and watch a performance (or rehearsal) inside.
In the context of all this, I am curious to learn what Andrew Taylor talks about in Taipei this week. Not to mention how successful the Taipei Performing Arts Center is at engaging their formal and informal audiences.