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Taichung Opera House in Taiwan; Toyo Ito & Associates with Cecil Balmond

Striking curves: Taichung Opera House in Taiwan

The planning history of Taichung Opera House goes back to 1992, the year when the Taiwanese government first considered a respective project. The building itself was opened in October 2016 following some ten years of planning and construction work.

The 58,000-square-metre complex offers three performance spaces, the smallest of which can seat 200, and the largest 2,000, and was planned by Pritzker Prize-winner Toyo Ito in collaboration with the engineer Cecil Balmond. The two were not working together for the first time. This can be seen in the form of the opera house, which like that of the Serpentine Pavilion realised in 2002 bears witness to Ito and Balmond's shared interest in challenging people's usual way of seeing things.

The architectural body is seen by its designers as a metaphor for the human body, with the cavernous interior spaces – foyers, stairways and passages – leading from the one to the other like the inner organs in the human body. The outer geometry provides the interior structure a rectilinear perimeter, whereby the hourglass-like openings in the façade provide little more than an indication of the dramatic interior spaces inside. As the architect states, these openings are to signify a connection to the outside, like the mouth, nose or ears in the human anatomy.

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