In 2009, Douglas Tong Hsu, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Yuan Ze University, commissioned Santiago Calatrava to design a significant new building complex for the University campus, located
in Taoyuan County, approximately 40 kilometers southwest of Taipei, Taiwan. The 58,000 gross square meter Phase 1 of the ambitious program includes a Performing Arts Center, a memorial to
the University's founder, and a new building for the University's art and design programs.
An additional 50,000 gross square meters of space for future scientific research laboratories is anticipated in Phase 2 of the project. Situated adjacent to the main campus entrance, the three new buildings will serve as a gateway to the University and create a generous cultural contribution to education and the arts in the region. At the center of the composition, the Performing Arts Building is defined by a dramatic curving roof that evokes traditional Taiwanese architecture. The primary entry to the building is from the north under a cantilevered extension of the roof.
The building's public lobbies surround two major performance spaces; an Orchestra Hall to the north and a Theater to the south. The Orchestra Hall, which can accommodate 1150 patrons, a full orchestra, and chorus, is highlighted by a breathtaking operable ceiling that expands or contracts the volume of the hall to meet the acoustic requirements of any performance. Large glazed openings provide a visual connection to the lobbies, plaza and campus beyond. The Theater is defined by a dramatic trumpet-shaped ceiling culminating in an illuminated ovoid. It features a flexible seating configuration that can accommodate from 400 to 700 people and allows multiple types of performances, from 'black box' shows to traditional productions requiring a fly tower. Choral and symphony rehearsal space is located above the Theater, and a large reception hall is located above the Orchestra Hall.
Located to the west of the Performing Arts Building, the Y. Z. Hsu Memorial building is a strong yet understated memorial to Yu-Ziang Hsu, the University's founder. The roof, defined by a series of curving steel ribs ascending to a peak, sits atop a concrete base clad in stone. The entry sequence begins at a traditional three portal arch within a circular plaza north of the Memorial. A long walkway set between two raised reflecting pools completes the contemplative approach. Inside
the building, a conical sky lit vestibule serves as an antechamber to the Memorial space, and includes a spiral stair that connects to exhibition and support spaces below. The steel ribs that
form the Memorial roof split to create a dramatic arched interior ceiling in counterpoint to the roof silhouette. Skylights set between the ribs allow abundant natural light to filter into the main Memorial space. The primary Exhibition space, located below the Memorial space, features a series of curved concrete ribs that spring from two large concrete arches, each of which opens to a pool
of water that reflects natural light into the space. To the east, the Community Center enjoys views of a sunken garden landscaped with indigenous vegetation.
Located to the east of the Performing Arts Building, the Art and Design School is similar in scale to the Memorial. This filigree-like roof of steel ribs extends over the entry walkway to create a sheltered plaza between two reflecting pools. Beyond the circular entry vestibule lies the Exhibition Space, a serene and contemplative sky lit space conducive to the display and viewing of art. Glazed skylights between the steel ribs allow a diffuse natural light into the gallery, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. Below the Exhibition Space, art and design studios are allocated along a wide corridor suitable for informal interactions between students, faculty and visitors. The studio spaces are characterized by access to natural light and air via the sunken gardens and pools that characterize the site. Faculty offices are clustered to the east of the art school building and enjoy views of the pools as well.
The three buildings exhibit distinct architectural identities above the public plaza, which contains landscaped gardens and reflecting pools that spatially and materially unify the composition. Below the plaza, the functional spaces of the three buildings are interconnected to a greater degree, and utilize the aforementioned courtyards and reflecting pools to provide natural light, fresh air and views. In addition, the two-story basement includes vehicular access, parking and mechanical services. Locating these areas below grade minimizes their visual impact, contributing to the site’s tranquil atmosphere. A sculptural arch forms the gate to the main public entrance of the University. A large elliptical area west of the gate is bisected by the entry road and forms a space that can be used for special events, such as graduation ceremonies. Additional parking is located at the south end of the site (the future location of the Phase 2 research building). Landscaped medians minimize the visual impact of vehicles and integrate this area into the site’s larger design vision.
In addition to the scale, massing and architectural development of the complex, the buildings are further unified through the use of a simple material palette of stone, steel, metal cladding and glass. The stone used in the plaza is also used in the bases of the three buildings in order to emphasize their organic quality and highlight the project’s civic nature. Long span steel ribs define the large primary spaces in all three buildings providing for the modern luxury of natural light and space. Metal cladding, used on the exterior of the structural steel ribs and curved roof surfaces, projects a modern image appropriate to a forward-thinking university environment.
No. 135, Yuandong Road,