Corrugated glass has been used in a number of OMA projects, including Casa da Musica, Qatar National Library, and Taipei Performing Arts Center. The use of corrugated glass—the double curvature of which creates unanticipated light reflections to induce a pleasing kaleidoscopic effect— was primarily a design decision in each case, although the material was also chosen for its structural properties.
In Casa da Musica in Porto, the material leads to visual transparency of the concert hall, connecting performances inside to the urban context. It also reflects and disperses sounds within, creating excellent acoustic properties. For the Qatar National Library in Doha, corrugated glass allows natural light to illuminate the entire library, while giving the building an inviting presence when illuminated by interior artificial light at night. For Taipei Performing Arts Center, the curved glass was chosen to reinforce the connection between performing arts, people, and the city.
Due for completion in 2020, Taipei Performing Arts Center is inspired by, and adds to the urban intensity of Taipei. Designed with the intention to preserve the vitality of the site— characterised by the continuous human flow between the Shilin Night Market and the MRT (subway) station—the Center is a compact structure comprised of a central cube with three independent theatres plugged into it. This configuration allows the building to have multiple faces defined by protruding auditoria, and a potential public realm at the ground level.
The three theatres of the building include a 1500-seat Grand Theatre, one 800-seat Multiform Theatre, and one 800-seat Proscenium Playhouse. The central cube accommodates the stages, backstage areas, rehearsal rooms and foyers. The West Tower accommodates other back of house facilities.
The Proscenium Playhouse resembles a suspended planet docking with the cube. Inside the auditorium, the intersection of the inner shell of the sphere and the cube forms a unique proscenium for creation of any frame imaginable. The Grand Theatre is a contemporary evolution of the large theatre spaces of the 20th century. It resists the standard shoebox design and takes a slightly asymmetrical shape. The stage level, parterre, and the balcony are united into a folded plane. Opposite the Grand Theatre and on the same level is the Multiform Theatre—a flexible space to accommodate the most experimental performances.
By positioning the Grand Theatre and the Multiform Theatre on the same level, we created the opportunity of coupling the two into the Super Theatre, which offers a 100-metre long, 40-metre stage for experimental performances that are otherwise possible only in venues not dedicated to performances, such as factories. This allows conventional theatrical productions to be reimagined on a different scale. It also allows for novel and yet to be imagined forms of theatre to grow and thrive.
A public loop, which runs through the central cube and the Proscenium Playhouse, is installed in Taipei Performing Arts Center to encourage the general public—even those without a ticket—to enter the building. This public loop runs through spaces of production, which are typically hidden, but equally impressive and choreographed as the performances showcased. This gesture enables theatregoers to have a more holistic theatrical experience, while engaging a wider public.
In order to create an illuminated and animated cube that contrasts the auditoria, which appear as opaque elements, it was decided that the auditoria would be clad with aluminum, and corrugated glass would be the façade material of the cube. Characterised by its transparency, corrugated glass reveals parts of the theatrical scenography to people outside of the building, while also concealing them through diffraction to evoke curiosity. In the same way, theatregoers and visitors inside the building can have a glimpse of the outside urban environment through the glass that at once discloses and obscures. Transparency of the building envelop creates a relationship between the theatre’s inner workings and the city, and draws the existing human flow between the night market and the MRT into the theatre. The glass is tinted into a dark colour to contrast three aluminum clad auditoria that appear shiny under the sun. The colour of the glass was determined by the pvb interlayer added between sheets of the laminated glass.
While the use corrugated glass in Taipei Performing Arts Center was primarily a design decision, the material was also chosen for its structural properties, as in other OMA projects. Corrugated glass has greater stiffness and structural capacity compared with sheet glass. It allows minimisation of the sizes and frequencies of structural components that support the glass, or even removal of glazing structure. This could lead to exceptional transparency. Compared with sheet glass, corrugated glass is more resistant to horizontal wind loads, which reduces the need for lateral supports. This property makes corrugated glass an excellent material in Taipei that is prone to typhoons compared with sheet glass. At the corners of the cube, which experience greater wind loads, corrugated glass planes are thickened to ensure structural strength.
Corrugated glass reinforces the relationship between the theatre and the city, creates amusing lighting in the interior, and is structurally feasible. The material is not without drawbacks, however. Distortions created by the curved material can be disturbing to those working in front of the glass. In Taipei Performing Arts Centre, corrugated glass is mainly deployed at the foyer and circulation spaces where people flow. Perforated aluminum panels with flat glass behind are used in the West Towers that largely house offices.
The use of corrugated glass presented challenges in manufacturing and installation. In the Taipei project, storey-high shaped corrugated glass panels, produced by specialised curved glass firm Cricursa based in Barcelona, are used. Each panel was created by heating a flat sheet of glass laid in an oven to between 700 to 800 degrees C, which softened and sagged onto a mould to give the glass its desired shape. The size of the oven limited the height of the glass panels, which could only reach six metres maximum at the time. On site, the five-metre glass panels were connected by sealants and supported by I beams, which are connected to the floor slabs.
Detailing between the spherical Proscenium Playhouse and the corrugated glass panels was specifically complex. The curvature of the aluminum clad sphere requires the production of corrugated glass of irregular geometries in the vertical plane. To produce glass that precisely fits with the sphere, the contractor created replicas of corrugated glass panels in wood. Each wooden replica was installed around the sphere and cut in response to the curvature. Each wooden replica was then taken down and converted into a mould, eventually shipped back to Cricursa in Barcelona that created variations of the corrugated glass. Over fifty tailor-made corrugated glass panels were used in the Taipei Performing Arts Centre.
Despite complexities, our team achieved a large corrugated glass façade that reveals the inner workings of the theatre to a wider public. The façade is a key aspect of the design that aptly captures the ambition of the theatre to be open: to both new theatrical opportunities, and new audiences.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Winter 2019 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: David Gianotten, OMA
David Gianotten is the Managing Partner – Architect of OMA. He oversees the overall organisational and financial management, business strategy, and growth of OMA in all markets, in addition to his own architectural portfolio.
As partner-in-charge, David currently leads the design and construction of projects in different regions, including the Taipei Performing Arts Centre; the Prince Plaza Building in Shenzhen; the masterplan of Rotterdam’s Feyenoord City and the design of the new 63,000 seat Feyenoord Stadium; Amsterdam’s Bajes Kwartier—conversion of a large 1960s prison complex into a new neighborhood with 1,350 apartments; and VDMA—transformation of an unused site with industrial heritage in Eindhoven into a mixed-use urban hub.
David has led the design and realisation of the Potato Head Studios—a resort in Bali (Completed 2020), the New Museum for Western Australia in Perth (Completed 2019), MPavilion 2017 in Melbourne and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange headquarters (Completed 2013). He was responsible for the end stages of the CCTV headquarters in Beijing (Completed 2012). Projects led by David have been published worldwide, and have received awards including the 2017 Melbourne Design Awards and the CTBUH Awards in 2013. David lectures around the world about his projects, and on topics including the future of the architectural profession, the role of context in projects, and speed and risk in architecture.
David joined OMA in 2008, launched OMA’s Hong Kong office in 2009, and became partner in 2010. He has led OMA’s portfolio in the Asia-Pacific region for seven years. In 2015, he returned to the Netherlands to oversee OMA globally as Managing Partner – Architect. Before joining OMA, he was Principal Architect at SeARCH in the Netherlands.
Since 2016, David has been a professor in the Architectural Urban Design and Engineering department at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where he is a graduate in Architecture and Architectural Engineering. He also serves on the board of the Netherlands Asia Honors Summer School.