Kaohsiung Pop Music Center features a tessellated skyline defining form

Spanish architect Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz’s pop music destination in Taiwan’s port city Kaohsiung accommodates the spectators through small topographical gestures.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Jan 08, 2022

Ten years in the making, Spanish architect Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz and his associate won a competition in 2011 to design the new Kaohsiung Pop Music Center in the port city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. The construction was formally completed in 2021 and is part of a larger urban scheme comprising public and performance spaces. The City Council, the Ministry of Culture and the Central Government of Taiwan called for proposals to give the Kaohsiung port along the Love River, a new cultural dimension as a pop music destination. It is interesting to note that this particular complex is not dedicated merely to music but very specifically to pop music which has a very strong significance and identity in parts of South-East Asia. This was something the architects were mindful of while planning and designing the complex.

Phase 1 Master Plan | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
Phase 1 Master Plan Image: Courtesy of Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz

The idea of creating iconic architecture while also proposing flexible design which allows users and local cultural activities to reprogram spaces is a nuanced notion. In addition to responding to the stipulated program, Lahoz’s plan also allows for spontaneous activities to take place when there are no concerts. In this way, the architectural pieces accommodate the interior rooms and, at the same time, turn onto the exterior generating different meeting spaces. The architectural ecosystem that makes up The Kaohsiung Pop Music Center has an aquatic nomenclature and features five key elements.

Renders of the proposal | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
Renders of the proposal Image: Courtesy of Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz

The Great Wave

A skyline defining form of the Kaohsiung Pop Music Center, the ‘Great Wave’ refers to the main auditorium and tower. This element consists of two large auditoriums; one is open-air with a capacity of 12,000 people and the other is enclosed and seats 3,500 people. Each of the auditoriums is topped by a tower, which appears to emerge from each of the performance spaces. The taller tower grows to form the enclosed concert hall while the smaller one serves as a backdrop for the open-air auditorium. Initially planned as two separate towers, the final structure sees the two towers connected by a glass atrium. Their position had to be rethought to provide acoustic protection to the surrounding residential area. The two towers consist of spaces dedicated to the music industry such as rehearsal rooms, offices, and exhibition areas.

  • The Great Wave refers to the two towers| Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    The Great Wave refers to the two towers Image: Tai tzu chun
  • The two towers consist of spaces dedicated to the music industry | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    The two towers consist of spaces dedicated to the music industry Image: Yi-Hsien Lee

The outdoor auditorium is set on a green cover and is designed to accommodate the spectators through small topographical gestures, with the possibility to adapt the space based on different shows and groups of people. The smaller tower houses the stage and closes the performance area. The covered auditorium functions as a plinth to the taller tower. This particular element of the entire project can be discussed as two layers. The inner layer forms the functional space, particularly in relation to the concert hall which is organised as a fan with five separate bleacher blocks. Here the function is paramount, the design of this internal volume of the concert hall is guided by the standards and mechanics of auditorium design. But what one sees of the structure is however very different. The outer skin of the concert hall features a tessellated surface consisting of a hexagonal module. Here the architectural fold of the geometric façade design does not allude to the interiority of the structure. While guided by the mass of the auditorium this exterior skin exhibits a form that is independent of it. The gap between the façade and the auditorium is where the lobby exists. This space is derived as a negative space by virtue of being in the middle of two defined architectural forms.

Lobby space | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
Lobby space Image: Kano Chang

The hexagonal grid that forms the roof of the auditorium continues its fold over the main tower and the smaller companion tower. The hexagon becomes a key module that is repeated across the entire project including tile layouts in the promenade spaces. The hexagonal tessellations across the vertical and horizontal skin of the tower act as a stitch that facilitates the movement of the façade across the two planes. It also creates a change in the perspective of the scale of the building. The human eye is so accustomed to viewing vertical structures defined by the number of floors that are visible on the façade that the hexagonal distortions make it difficult to visually compare the height of the building to its surroundings. But this also allows the towers to stand, leading visitors to the port, like a lighthouse beckoning land-dwellers towards the sea.

  • The hexagonal grid that forms the roof of the auditorium continues its fold over the main tower | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    The hexagonal grid that forms the roof of the auditorium continues its fold over the main tower Image: Kano Chang
  • The tessellated facade of the Great Wave | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    The tessellated facade of the Great Wave Image: Yi-Hsien Lee

The Coral

The Coral occupies the central area of redevelopment. It is also the element that underwent the most change. Initially proposed as a green and walkable roof under which a night market would be housed, the final design was transformed to accommodate a more climate-responsive design. The final design features a large roof made up of hexagonal umbrellas supported by branched pillars, which is inspired by Frei Otto's work. The hexagonal pattern of the roof is used to create a series of enclosed spaces, within the space which contains commercial and exhibition programs. The shaded open spaces accommodate a diverse set of activities, such as street markets, street dances, and theatre. The branched pillars facilitate larger spans while the hexagonal module generates a versatile and adaptable design.

  • Aerial view of Coral | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    Aerial view of Coral Image: Yi-Hsien Lee
  • Kaohsiung Pop Music Center, Taiwan | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    Kaohsiung Pop Music Center, Taiwan Image: Yi-Hsien Lee
  • Detail of the roof | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    Detail of the roof Image: Yi-Hsien Lee
  • Interior column detail | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    Interior column detail Image: Yi-Hsien Lee

The Whale

The Live Houses or "whales", are a series of six spaces that overlook the sea and are on the opposite edge of the Great Wave. They were the first pieces to be completed of the entire complex and do not feature the hexagonal pattern within their form. Ranging from a capacity of 400 to 1500 people, these spaces are meant to host events, concerts, exhibitions and presentations. The distinguishing feature of the Live Houses is their green roofs, which are also walkable. This green roof starts from the street and leads toward the bay with a view of the sunset over the port. The structures themselves are set back from the edge to make way for a pedestrian promenade by the sea. While the promenade is filled with food trucks and stalls, inside one would find EDM sessions, video game presentations or jazz concerts.

  • The Whales, Live Houses, and their green roofs | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    The Whales, Live Houses, and their green roofs Image: Yi-Hsien Lee
  • View of the promenade | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
    View of the promenade Image: Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz

Dolphins and Parks

The Dolphins run parallel to the tram throughout the complex and connect the two large areas divided by the Love River. The five Dolphins are restaurants raised on pillars that have access to the enclosure around the perimeter. The project is a comprehensive urban design with promenades and a park at the mouth of the Love River. Taiwan's humid tropical climate ensures that in a few years the area will be populated with lush vegetation and could become an important green lung for the industrial city.

Five Dolphin (restaurants) can be seen along the tracks | Kaohsiung Pop Music Center | Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz | STIRworld
Five Dolphin (restaurants) can be seen along the tracks Image: Yi-Hsien Lee

Project Details

Name of the project: Kaohsiung Pop Music Center
Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Area: 88,000 m2
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Manuel A. Monteserín Lahoz
Design Team: Beatriz pachón Castrillo, Javier Simó de Pedro
Local Partner: Mark Ongg
Partner and project manager: EDDEA

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