The National Taichung Theater: Experimenting Publicity of Metropolitan Urbanism
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That Taichung becomes one of the leading cities in Taiwan is part of a story that is less than one century old. Historically, the plateau in the central basin of the island of Taiwan where the city is located was cultivated under the supervision of Tainan, Chiayi, and many other traditional cultural centers. Changhua, today a comparably minor city close to Taichung, was established in 1722 and dominated the region for a long time because of its good seaside location and available transportation. There was a brief bureaucratic reformation that transferred the power from Tainan to Taichung in 1887, and later further north to Taipei. This transfer led to the reconstruction of Taichung in 1889, and the new city had eight main-gate buildings with single pitched roofs that were surrounded by newly established walls.
Writing about National Taichung Theater is always difficult, not only because of the constant transitions of power since the city was built and the political agenda of the physical environment, but also because of the competing economic and administrative struggles, which have resulted in the postponement of a national project for ideological and budgetary reasons. These same reasons led the government to ‘commercialise public interests’, even at the expense of impairing long-conceived publicity and the very nature of modern cultural institutions.
However, we see exceptional contributions from various bodies to this marvellous building. Without persistence in design philosophy and fabrication technology, citizens of Taichung would have no opportunity to explore the magical caves of Jules Verne or dream within the musical palace of Alice’s wonderland. I felt like an intruder exploring its architectural qualities on my first visit, but like a close friend on my second. This change in mind-set about belonging shows the embodiment of human experience and how modern citizens can engage in social life while being inspired and motivated by artistic intervention in the built environment. I have frequented Taichung for family reasons, and when my year-and-a-half-old son stared at the musicians playing Bach in the central lobby, I know that another round of self-enlightenment has begun.
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