National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts

Think Global, Act Local

2018 / December

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts /tr. by Bruce Humes

With a façade that resembles a spacecraft from an alien planet, the design concept of the National Kao­hsiung Center for the Arts was inspired by nearby groves of old banyan trees with interwoven aerial roots. The center not only looks avant-garde, but the ambitions its management team have for the venue ­really rock too. They hope to grow a flower of performing arts in south Taiwan—once considered a cultural desert—and make their voice heard inter­nation­ally from the island’s southern tip.   



After a wait of some 15 years from planning to completion, the National Kao­hsiung Center for the Arts—aka Wei­wu­ying—opened to the public on October 15, 2018.

Speaking to the world

“In fact, for us this is really an historic day. All the preparations and every­one’s energetic collabora­tion notwithstanding, the crucial thing is to make our voice heard internationally,” says Chien Wen-pin, the center’s executive and artistic director.

Born in 1967, ­Chien went abroad for postgraduate study when he was 22, and at the age of just 30 was designated resident conductor of the ­Deutsche Oper am ­Rhein (“German Opera on the Rhine”)—one of the first Taiwanese to conduct a top-flight European orchestra. Fourteen years later, he obtained the tenured position of conductor-­in-residence with the same body. But at 47 he resigned from this permanent post to relocate to Kao­hsiung—long dubbed a “cultural desert”—and lead the National Kao­hsiung Center for the Arts.

“Making Taiwan’s voice heard on the inter­national stage was the motivation behind my ­return,” says ­Chien. “I had observed Taiwan’s plight from overseas for over 20 years, and this made me keen to return and do my bit for Taiwan.”

News of the center’s grand opening has spread like wildfire throughout Europe, and to date 70-plus foreign media have covered the center. For example, “Epic Scenes: The Biggest Arts Venue on Earth Lands in Taiwan” reads the headline in Britain’s prestigious daily The Guardian.

The exposure provided by this October’s opening cere­mony is not the only thing to capture global attention for the center. World premieres of productions of Turandot and Paradise Interrupted, international undertakings in which the center participated, took place in 2015. Inspired by 16th-century Chinese dramatist Tang ­Xianzu’s acclaimed ­Kunqu opera Peony Pavilion, the one-act Paradise Interrupted was coproduced by the National Kao­hsiung Center for the Arts, the Lincoln Center of the United States, Spoleto Festival USA and the Singapore International Fest­ival of Arts. But the behind-the-scenes production team for the Taiwan‡German coproduction of Turandot—from dir­ector Li Huan-­hsiung to costume designer Lai ­Hsuan-wu, stage designer ­Liang Jo­shan and video designer Wang Jun-jieh—are all natives of Taiwan.

Creating Southern Taiwan’s performing arts ecology

After graduating from university, ­Chien went abroad for further study and resided in Europe for almost three decades. He has spent more of his life overseas than in Taiwan. He often heard Kao­hsiung described as a cultural desert, a term he considers a “myth.” But as a venue operator, ­Chien comments: “We just have to take the market for what it is, accept it, and then ‘consider what we can do with it.’”

“Why can’t we nurture a performing arts style that belongs to Kao­hsiung?” he wonders.

As regards market development, ­Chien believes that at this stage the important thing is to draw the public in to personally experience the venue. He also refers to the cultivation of Kao­hsiung’s arts market as an “ongoing creative work.” In his opinion, Kao­hsiung is Kao­hsiung; it isn’t Tai­pei and needn’t try to be. Instead, creating a ­southern Taiwan performing arts style is in order. In terms of managing the venue, “Seeing an endless stream of people coming to the center, making optimal use of the space—that’s what matters to me.”

To this end, while preparing for the official opening he brainstormed with his partners. All the customary etiquette employed in a performance venue was open to discussion, including how to guide audiences in appreciating performances, the style of interaction with visitors, audience dress code, vocabulary, dialect, terms of address, and so forth. Just because something is done a certain way in Tai­pei, doesn’t mean Kao­hsiung must follow suit. As an example, he jokes about the typical Kao­hsiung motor­cyclist’s habit of directly turning left at an inter­section, instead of obediently proceeding to a “left-turn box” and awaiting a green light as Taiwan’s traffic regu­lations demand. When dealing with a Kao­­hsiung audience, there is naturally no need to make things sound complicated; the people you are serving are different, and therefore the way in which you serve them should be adjusted to a format that is genuinely appropriate for locals.

“For me, this is a major creative undertaking. It’s not a matter of efficiency above all. It’s about creating a performing arts ‘ecosystem’ that is centered around Kao­hsiung,” emphasizes Chien.

“Everyone’s Art Center”

In 2015, ­Chien proclaimed “Every­one’s Art Center” as the center’s positioning.

This slogan echoes the design concept of the center’s Dutch architect, Francine Houben. Inspired by the local banyan trees, she designed a flat roof consisting of a single undu­lating structure that resembles the canopy of a grove of the iconic trees. Hollow spaces formed within the interwoven aer­ial roots became passages and resting spots under the roof. Light radiates inside via skylights, mimicking the ambiance of sunlight filtering through treetops. Meanwhile, the network of linked ramps and municipal park pathways surrounding the center natur­ally channels the public into Banyan Plaza, where they can enjoy the comforts of this semi-outdoor space. 

Under the streamlined roof, the interior space consists of four venues: the Concert Hall, the Recital Hall, the Opera House and the Play House.

The Concert Hall is the only one in Taiwan to adopt a “vineyard-­style” design, in which the performers are entirely surrounded by the audience. Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), Suntory Hall (Tokyo), and Paris Philharmonic Hall all feature a similar design.

As a performance venue for chamber music and recitals, to obtain optimal acoustics the walls of the Recital Hall are lined with sound-reflecting wooden panels, with sound-absorbing drapery behind rhombic openings in the panels around the upper half.
The Opera House is the largest theater in Taiwan. Domin­ated by the color “Taiwan Red,” the horseshoe-shaped seating layout can accommodate audiences of up to 2,260 people.

The Play House is decorated mainly in Delft blue. Depending on the demands of a specific performance, the stage can be configured as a single-sided framed stage or a projecting three-sided stage. The latter positions the audience close to the performers, allowing theatergoers to experience the tension of the drama more intensely.

Southern Taiwan certainly deserves to enjoy world-class performance venues, but Chien does not wish for art to be put up on a pedestal. “I hope this will become a ‘place’ where every­one likes to come, and not a ‘temple.’” So they organize activities in Banyan Plaza such as inviting people to practice yoga or for children to play on swings. They have also organized movie screenings that allow spectators to recline casually in Banyan Plaza while watching a movie projected onto the curved steel-plate wall.

While strolling in the center’s “Time Gallery,” I read the detailed history of Wei­wu­ying, and only then did I learn that this vast space served as a key military site from the Qing Dynasty through the era of Japanese rule and beyond. In 1979 the military relinquished claims to it, and in 1992 the Wei­wu­ying Metropolitan Park Promotion Association, founded by poet and physician Dr. ­Tseng Kui-hai, promoted the site’s conversion into a muni­cipal park. In 2003, the central government approved the “Weiwuying Art and Culture Center” plan, reserving ten hectares of land within the park for the art center, which was completed in 2018. As stated by President Tsai Ing-wen at the grand opening ceremony, its completion represents the fruits of efforts to strive for cultural equality and liberate space in the post-martial-law era.

Let’s party

The center’s opening season runs for two and a half months, and the programs chosen represent the fruits of the past three years of effort by the management team at the Wei­wu­ying preparatory office. Since 2015, the Kao­hsiung City Government has staged the Kao­hsiung Spring Arts Festival in the first half of each year, while the Wei­wu­ying team has organ­ized the Wei­wu­ying Children’s Festival and the Wei­wu­ying Arts Festival in the latter half of each year. Kao­hsiung’s art and culture audience has been gradually nurtured. Especially worth mentioning are the Wei­wu­ying Circus Platform and the Taiwan Dance Platform, both inaugur­ated in 2016. The annual circus platform is a venue where circus performers can interact. The Taiwan Dance Platform has also entered into a partnership with Aerowaves, a European networking platform for young choreo­graphers, thereby becoming the first organization in Asia to formalize col­labora­tion with that body.

If a musical metaphor can be used to describe the center, ­Chien doesn’t hesitate to put it like this: “Of course, it’s a symphony!” All kinds of musical instruments have their place in a symphonic composition, just like the center’s stage exists for all sorts of people. Each person can find his or her own place here. 

“The center is so massive that we really must rely on every­one to shoulder it together,” insists ­Chien. “And as ‘Everyone’s Art Center,’ on another level of meaning it signifies that all of us must grow together.”

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繁體 日本語



文‧鄧慧純 圖‧衛武營國家藝術文化中心








不只是開幕時的曝光,衛武營的國際共製節目《驚園》與《杜蘭朵》,早在2015年即進行世界首演,《驚園》的靈感來自明代湯顯祖膾炙人口的崑曲名作《牡丹亭》,是由衛武營、美國林肯中心、美國斯波萊多藝術節(Spoleto Festival USA),與新加坡藝術節跨國委託、共同製作的獨幕歌劇,簡文彬在其中擔任指揮。台德共製的《杜蘭朵》則是簡文彬口中所說「不小心的成功案例」,這齣歌劇的幕後製作團隊,從導演黎煥雄、服裝設計賴宣吾、舞台設計梁若珊到影像設計王俊傑,皆不折不扣地來自台灣。這樣的機會不知道何時才會再發生,但「真的希望在歐洲傳統的歌劇、舞台劇的產業裡,我們有發揮的地方。」簡文彬說。








這與打造衛武營建築的荷蘭建築師法蘭馨‧侯班(Francine Houben)的設計理念相呼應,她從在地的榕樹群得到靈感,設計的單一平面大波浪屋頂形同榕樹群樹冠相連的樣態,根鬚盤錯形成的樹洞,成了屋頂下的通路與休憩空間;透過天井射下的光線,形似陽光透過樹梢撒下的氛圍;因為風洞效應,樹冠下的廣場不時涼風習習;場館的平面坡道與衛武營都會公園的步道相連,自然而然地邀請民眾進入到榕樹廣場,共享這半戶外空間的舒適愜意。









Let’s party



特別值得一提的是2016年推動的「衛武營馬戲平台」與「台灣舞蹈平台」。一年一度的馬戲平台是馬戲工作者的交流平台,同時也向社會大眾介紹以人為主「新馬戲」,讓民眾有機會親近這項平民藝術。台灣舞蹈平台也與歐陸年輕編舞家網絡平台Aerowaves締結合作關係,成為亞洲首個與其建立正式夥伴關係的組織。衛武營也成為今年年中由亞洲各國舞蹈專業人士所發起的「AND +」創始夥伴,集結亞洲舞蹈新能量,平台的創設就是要連結國際,讓台灣被國際看見。


夜間在戶外劇場舉行的《眾人的派對》,則是由德國藝術創意團隊phase7,與國內外百名表演藝術團隊如蒂摩爾古薪舞集X地磨兒部落、丞舞製作、Corby Welch、莊金梅、吉姆 Jimix、十鼓擊樂團等共同演出,展現表演藝術的多元面貌。





文・鄧慧純 写真・衛武營國家藝術文化中心提供 翻訳・笹岡 敦子







オープニングだけではない。衛武営の国際共同制作『驚園(Paradise Interrpted)』と『トゥーランドット』は、2015年に世界初公演が行われている。『驚園』は、明代の劇作家・湯顕祖による広く知られる崑曲の名作『牡丹亭』にインスパイアされ、衛武営と米リンカーンセンター、スポレートフェスティバルUSA、シンガポール国際アートフェスティバルが共同制作した一幕オペラである。簡文彬はその中で指揮を務めている。台湾とドイツの共同制作『トゥーランドット』は、簡文彬が言うところの「不注意で成功した事例」である。このオペラの制作チームは、演出の黎煥雄、衣装デザインの頼宣吾、舞台デザインの梁若珊から映像デザインの王俊傑まで、全員が正真正銘の台湾出身である。







これは衛武営を手掛けたオランダの建築家フランシーヌ・ホウベン(Francine Houben)の設計理念とも呼応する。ホウベンが高雄のガジュマルの林にインスピレーションを得て設計した一枚の大きく波打つ屋根は、連なるガジュマルの樹冠を描き出し、垂れ下がる気根が木の洞を作り出し、屋根の下の通路と休息スペースを形作る。くりぬいた天井から差し込む光が木漏れ日のようである。風の通り道ができ、木陰の広場は涼やかである。1階のスロープは衛武営メトロポリタン公園の歩道と連なり、ガジュマル広場に誘われた人々が、半屋外のスペースに憩う。









Let's party


特筆すべきは、2016年の「衛武営サーカスプラットフォーム」と「台湾ダンスプラットフォーム」である。年に一度のサーカスプラットフォームはサーカスアーティストの交流の場として、また人が中心の「新サーカス」を広く紹介し、人々が間近にアートに触れる機会でもある。台湾ダンスプラットフォームも、ヨーロッパの若い振付家のネットワークAerowavesと提携し、アジア初の正式なパートナー組織となった。衛武営は2018年の半ば、アジア各国のダンスアーティストが呼びかけた「AND +」のオリジナルパートナーにもなった。交流の場を設けることで世界とつながり、台湾の国際化を図る。



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