A new performing arts center that opened in Taipei, Taiwan, has become a meme after people noticed its uncanny resemblance to an assortment of hot pot ingredient including a meatball on toothpicks and a block of tofu.
Designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten from architectural firm The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the Taipei Performing Arts Center officially opened to the public on Sunday Aug. 7.
The building – which was inspired by scenes from the nearby world famous Shilin Night Market – aims to blend art with city life and become an accessible and diverse public performance space in the capital.
With a facade comprised of a cube holding two theaters and a third theater inside a globe, the exterior has also drawn comparisons to “century egg tofu”, another famous Taiwanese dish.
Koolhaas and Gianotten said at a private opening tour of the center on Aug. 7. that the architecture of the building takes seemingly simple forms but incorporates several surprising factors.
The stilts, which people have compared to toothpicks holding up a meatball, elevate the building, allowing the public to flow in and out of the square below, while the raised first floor aligns with the elevated metro line that runs alongside, helping to seamlessly integrate the center with the bustling shopping district nearby.
To further close the gap between the center and the city, the architects used 1,200 panels of curved glass to create a wave-shaped glass wall that allows people inside to look out to the city, and vice versa.
The use of glass throughout the building also contributes to a key theme of the center – taking the “private” parts of the theater and making them public.
The center contains a built-in “Public Loop”, a free public walkway that runs through the building. The path, which Gianotten says is the first of its kind in the world, allows visitors to wander through the center and observe all the behind-the-scenes processes that go in to creating theater.
With an open-air balcony area that looks onto the mountain, the center also includes a “decompression” element for staff that isn’t present in many theaters, which are generally cramped, Koolhaas said.
In line with Koolhaas’ vision of “creating a building where reality is repeatedly stewed, cooked, and refined, overspilling its essence and aromas into the alleys and night market nearby,” local residents were offered free entrance to three performances on opening day, including “The Monk from Tang Dynasty”, a film by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, a performance from the Taipei Symphony Orchestra and a “dansical” traveling through Taipei’s history.