Well. I am completely unsure of how to describe this building. Is is deconstructivist? What then is being deconstructed? Maybe it’s constructivist and someone interrupted the building while it was in the process? This is, of course all play, and whichever style it is, if it has a style, if it wants a style, is not really important. This is the entry by the Atlanta-based firm, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, for the Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Pop Music Center competition. It was shortlisted in stage 1 and received one of the two Honourable Mentions given in the second and final stage. I think this project is definitely worth spending some time with, if for nothing more than to jog your mind. But I think there is more reason than that. As such, I’m going to give way to the architects, and let them walk you through it with detail…

Courtesy of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

The Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural and Popular Music Center evokes a giant vessel moored at the quay. Both preposterous and appropriate, the Center is the icon, the scenic landmark.

The concept is that of a dynamic, vertical-horizontal public space—a twenty-four-hour attraction. By day the Center is an iconic silhouette against the Kaohsiung sky and by night a luminous showplace, an animated marquee on a grand scale. It is a symbol for the city and a place for all the people—a great symbol of Kaohsiung’s maritime heritage and its music industry future. It is a place where everyone can experience the loftiest position of privilege and the most serene moment of peace and contemplation, a place where the youth of the city and its internationally renowned community of commerce can come together to celebrate, party and relax in the beauty of their home—a place of origins, new and old.

Courtesy of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

The Center is a threshold where the waters of the river and the sea meet the complexity of commerce and the urban condition—an urban catalyst inviting the people of Kaohsiung to the water’s edge. The entire site including the harbor is a place of performance where a single impromptu sidewalk act to a major concert and everything in between coexists within the site and buildings lending almost infinite flexibility and variety. The transformability of the main stage of the Large Performance Hall uniquely extends the performance / audience relationship. Enhanced by the use of projection and infrastructure, performance resonates at a mega-scale and simultaneously within the smallest, most intimate spaces of the buildings and the landscape.

Courtesy of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

The scheme concentrates all the energy of the Center at the mouth of the Love River, tight to the urban fabric. The two major components of the program, the Pop Music Center and the Marine Culture Exhibit Center, are deployed on either side of the mouth of the river, joined by a pedestrian connector. The Pop Music Center is held in check at the wharf by the “tugboat effect”of the Marine Culture Exhibit Center and by the tow line of the connector spanning between, signifying their implied and real inter-reliance.

By stacking the program elements vertically and clustering them tight against both sides the river, the site is reserved as open park space for performance, for public use or for future expansion / development. The stacking of program elements initiates a vertical procession in the urban fabric and positions the public at a place of privilege atop the Pop Music Center at the Vertical Meander overlooking the city and the harbor.

Courtesy of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

In conjunction with the existing parks to the southeast and southwest, a substantial green swath now nurtures the river’s mouth and provides a revitalized water’s edge for the people of Kaohsiung City and their visitors. The landscape is a cast of distinctive leading characters collected to perform in response to their adjacent audiences of varying urban conditions. The landscape functions at once in support of the building and planning strategies of the scheme and as an autonomous urban retreat.

Both nautical and theatrical in character, the Center is unique in the world, born of the vibrancy of Kaohsiung City and its maritime culture, and of the energy and phenomenon of popular music—a kind of friendly creature that can be found only in Kaohsiung.

Courtesy of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

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