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|July 18th, 2009, 07:39 AM||#121|
Join Date: Sep 2002
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Weaving together opposing energies
A snakelike stadium by Toyo Ito embraces the notion of multiple worlds
The New York Times
17 July 2009
KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan-- For some of us, entering a vast sports stadium is always an anxious pleasure. Behind the electrifying anticipation of the game there's the nagging feeling that every stadium contains the seeds of mass hysteria - that it can, in extreme times, become a place of terrifying intensity.
Designed by the Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the World Games' main stadium, which was unveiled at an opening ceremony here on Thursday, is shaped by a sensitivity to those conflicting sensations.
It is not only magnetic architecture, it is also a remarkably humane environment, something you rarely find in a structure of this size.
The World Games, which have international sports competitions not included in the Olympics, don't attract as much attention as those games, and there has been considerably less buzz about Mr. Ito's stadium than there was about the Bird's Nest, the lavish Olympic Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron that opened in Beijing last year. Nor does it have the same symbolic ambitions.
Yet for those who have been privileged enough to see Mr. Ito's creation, the experience is just as intoxicating. Clad in a band of interwoven white pipes, the structure resembles a python just beginning to coil around its prey, its tail tapering off to frame one side of an entry plaza. Unlike the Bird's Nest it unfolds slowly to the visitor and is as much about connecting - physically and metaphorically - with the public spaces around it as it is about the intensity of a self-contained event.
The stadium, with more than 40,000 seats, is surrounded by a vast new public park, its grounds sprinkled with palm trees and tropical plants. Most of the trees are young, but in a few years, when they are fully grown, they should create the impression that the structure is being swallowed by a dense tropical forest. In essence the coiled form becomes a tool for weaving together opposing energies: the concentrated intensity of the stadium on the one hand, the plaza's chaotic social exchanges on the other, the unruly forest all around.
What brings the design to life is that Mr. Ito is able to convey this experience physically, not just visually.
Visitors arriving from downtown via public transportation, for example, walk down a broad boulevard before turning into the plaza.
From there the stadium's tail, which houses ticket windows and restaurants, guides them toward the entry gates. The plaza itself gently swells up to meet that area. Once inside, the surface drops down suddenly, transforming into a sloping patch of lawn that looks over the field. Mr. Ito imagines that during many events the lawn will be open to the public, letting visitors drift in and out without buying a ticket.
As people move deeper into the stadium, the narrative becomes more focused. Concourses and upper-level seating are supported by a ring of concrete structures that vaguely resemble giant animal vertebrae - Mr. Ito calls them saddles - that seem to be straining under the weight above.
The character of the canopy (formed by the same white pipes as on the exterior) changes depending on perspective. Seen at an angle, the diagonal pipes create a powerful horizontal pull, whipping your eye around the stadium; seen from straight on, the vertical supports are more dominant, giving the structure a thrilling stillness.
At this exact moment - the moment when you are most in tune with the event about to take place - the outside world momentarily creeps back in. The tops of a few mountains are visible just above the canopy. So is the plaza, and just beyond it a distant view of the downtown skyline. It is as if Mr. Ito wants to remind you, one last time, of other realities, to gently break down the sense that the world of the stadium is all there is.
He is not the first architect to experiment with degrees of openness and enclosure in a stadium. Herzog & de Meuron's 2005 Munich soccer stadium, which looks like a gigantic padded inner tube, is almost suffocating in its sense of compression. Eduardo Souto de Moura's 2004 stadium in Braga, Portugal, is a masterly expression of extremes: embedded in a quarry at one end, its rectangular form opens onto a bucolic view of rolling hills on the other.
Like many who came to prominence in the past decade or so, these architects have sought to create structures that explore the psychological extremes that late Modernism and postmodernism ignored.
Their aim was to expand architecture's emotional possibilities and, in doing so, to make room for a wider range of human experience. Mr. Ito's stadium is the next step on that evolutionary chain. It reflects his long-standing belief that architecture, to be human, must somehow embrace seemingly contradictory values. Instead of a self-contained utopia, he offers us multiple worlds, drifting in and out of focus like a dream.
|July 20th, 2009, 06:42 PM||#122|
Join Date: Sep 2002
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Taiwan aims to impress with eco-friendly World Games
14 July 2009
Agence France Presse
The World Games open this week in southern Taiwan, with the island looking to impress the world with its state-of-the-art facilities, less than a year after rival China staged the Summer Olympics.
A total of 4,748 athletes from across the globe will compete in 31 different sports in the city of Kaohsiung from Thursday, organisers said.
For Taiwan, which has been politically isolated because of its decades-old tug-of-war with China over independence, the 11-day event has special significance.
"This is a rare chance for Taiwan to make itself better understood by the world, especially at a time it is being overshadowed by the rapid rise of its giant neighbour, China," Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu told AFP.
She said the city, previously known for its heavy industry, had remade itself and would impress the world on various fronts.
At the heart of Kaohsiung's rebranding efforts is a new 40,000-seat main stadium designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, which cost 4.7 billion Taiwan dollars (142 million US).
"This is the world's first eco-stadium," said a proud official from the organizing committee.
The stadium has more than 8,000 solar power panels on its roof, capable of generating 1.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, cutting annual carbon dioxide output by 660 tonnes.
"We hope to share with the world our success in environmental protection and reduction of greenhouse emissions over the past four years," the city's mayor said.
Kaohsiung has built a subway system, introduced more wetlands and cleaned up its heavily-polluted river. It is also going to temporarily shut down four steel mills to reduce pollution.
The 2009 World Games will be the biggest since the event was launched in Santa Clara, California, in 1981, the organising committee said.
The games, which involve sports that are not part of the Olympics, are held every four years, a year after the Olympiad.
Events range from better-known sports like rugby sevens and softball to Latin Dance, artistic roller skating, tug of war and korfball -- a sport similar to basketball but played by teams consisting of four male and four female players, making it the world's only dedicated mixed team sport.
New to the games this year will be dragon boat racing. Based on the festivals of China, the sport involves a crew of 16 to 20 paddling to the beat of a drum.
In a bid to ensure the games' success, Kaohsiung's mayor even travelled to Beijing in May to promote the event, despite criticism from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with which she is affiliated.
Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, despite the island's having governed itself since 1949 when a civil war ended.
Relations between Taiwan and China have improved dramatically since President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party came to power last year, pledging to forge closer economic and cultural ties in a reversal of the policy followed by the previous DPP administration.
The Chinese authorities have promised to send 78 athletes to Kaohsiung to compete in nine sports, the mayor said.
As they do for the Olympics, Taiwanese athletes will take part under the name of Chinese Taipei and will fly the island's special Olympic flag.
Organisers said seats for the games' opening event in the new stadium were sold out.
|July 21st, 2009, 08:08 PM||#123|
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Frame and fortune
18 July 2009
The New York Times
After nearly four decades of work, Japanese architect Toyo Ito has earned a cult following among his counterparts around the world, although he is little known among the public outside his home country. Through his strange and ethereal buildings, which range from modest houses for urban recluses to a library whose arched forms have the delicacy of paper cutouts, he has created a body of work almost unmatched in its diverse originality.
Over the past decade, as the popularity of architecture has boomed and many of his contemporaries have jetted around the globe, piling up one commission after another, Ito has largely remained on the sidelines. He is rarely mentioned in conversations about semi-celebrities such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid or Jacques Herzog. He has repeatedly been passed over for the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour, in favour of designers with much thinner resumes. Even in his native country he is overshadowed by Tadao Ando, whose brooding concrete structures have become a cliche of contemporary Japanese architecture.
Ito's status may finally be about to change. On Thursday night, a stadium he designed for the World Games was unveiled to a global audience in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Its python-like form should produce as much a stir, at least within architectural circles, as did the "Bird's Nest" stadium by Herzog and Pierre de Meuron when it was unveiled a year ago at the Beijing Olympics.
Even more ambitious are his plans for the Taichung opera house, on which construction is due to begin next year. A work of striking inventiveness, it has already been touted as a masterpiece. Its porous exterior, which resembles a gigantic sponge, is as wildly imaginative in its way as Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Its design was partly to thank for Ito's first American commission, the Berkeley Art Museum in California.
But even if Ito starts landing big, lucrative commissions, he may never be completely accepted by a the wider public. He does not have the intimidating, larger-than-life persona of a Koolhaas. Nor is he a flamboyant presence like Hadid, who is often compared to an opera diva because of her striking looks and imperial air.
Ito, by comparison, can be unassuming. A compact man with a round face framed by rectangular glasses and dark bangs, he is easy-going and rarely flustered. And he has the rare ability to consider his projects with a critical eye, even going so far as to point out flaws that a visitor might have overlooked.
What's more, his work can be maddeningly difficult to categorise. No two Ito buildings look exactly alike. There is no unifying aesthetic style, no manifesto to advance. You can never be sure what Ito will do next, which can be thrilling for architects but nerve-racking for clients.
What his buildings share is a distrust of simplistic formulas. His career can be read as a lifelong quest to find the precise balance between seemingly opposing values - individual and community, machine and nature, male and female, utopian fantasies and hard realities.
His ability to find such balances has made him one of the great urban poets, someone able to crystallise, through architecture, the tensions at the heart of modern society. It makes his work especially resonant today, when much of the world is drawn to one form of extremism or another.
Ito, who was born in 1941, began his career at a pivotal time in Japanese architecture. As a student in the 1960s he followed modernists such as Kenzo Tange as they rebuilt the country's cultural confidence after the devastation of the second world war. His first job was in the office of Kiyonori Kikutake, a founder of the metabolist movement, which envisioned gigantic flexible structures that could adapt to a society in constant flux. It established Kikutake and his cohorts as prominent figures among the international avant-garde.
But that decade of cultural optimism was short lived. By the 1970 Osaka Expo, which served as a showcase for the country's top architectural talent, metabolism had been practically reduced to a fad, its social agenda emasculated.
"All the big concepts were drained of idealism," Ito says as we ride a bullet train through the Japanese countryside on the way to visit one of his buildings.
"It was very disappointing for the young generation. It became very hard to have any outward hope about the future."
That crisis of faith - the sudden awareness of the powerlessness of architects, if not of architecture - was soon followed by a prolonged economic recession, which meant that the kinds of large-scale public commissions available to many post-war architects were gone.
Since the library's completion, his ambitions have led to a startling range of new designs. The concave roof segments of his recently opened Za-Koenji Public Theatre in Tokyo, for instance, are vaguely reminiscent of Shinohara's House Under High-Voltage Lines (1981). But Ito's structure is more animated, reflecting the energy of its bustling, working-class site.
Seen from an elevated rail line that passes directly in front of it, the theatre's uneven, tent-like form seems to be a result of the forces colliding around it, like speeding trains and arcane zoning requirements. Inside, a wide elliptical staircase at the back corner of the lobby draws people up through the building. Big porthole windows are carved into its roof and walls. It is a simple, inexpensive building, yet its enigmatic form lingers in the imagination and transforms your perception of the neighbourhood around it.
The design for the 44,000-seat Kaohsiung stadium, by contrast, seems to be as much about the anxieties of a mass event as about a shared emotional experience. While traditional stadiums are designed to shut out the outside world, Ito's seeks to maximise our awareness of it, while still creating a sense of enclosure.
From the main entry the stadium looks like a gigantic snake that is just beginning to coil around its prey. Its tail extends to one side, framing a large entry plaza. At times when the stadium is less full, people will be able to stroll through the gates from the plaza and sit on a patch of grass at the edge of the field, eroding the boundary between inside and out.
Inside, the intertwining pipes of the canopy curl down and around the stands, enveloping the audience. And while the immediate surroundings are shut out, most seats have a distant view of downtown. The result is remarkable: a space that manages to maintain the intensity and focus of a grand stadium without that intensity becoming oppressive.
Yet it is in his design for the Taichung opera house, Ito comes closest to an ideal he has been chasing for decades: a building that seems to have been frozen in a state of metamorphosis. Set in a landscaped park, it is conceived as a flexible network of interconnected vessels that has been sliced off on four sides to form a rectangular box.
The amorphous forms are not random; their seemingly elastic surfaces grow and shrink according to the functions they house, which include restaurants, foyers, a roof garden and three concert halls that will seat from 200 to 2,000 people. Visitors will find themselves slipping between some of these forms and entering others. The sense of inside and out, of stillness and motion, becomes a complex, carefully composed dance.
It is a striking vision, as beautiful as anything built in the past decade. And it sums up Ito's philosophy about architecture and life, about the need to accommodate the many contradictions that make us human.
It also suggests a way architecture can move forward.
At the beginning of this century the field seemed to have entered a new age of freedom and experimentation. But like everything else, that spirit was quickly subsumed by the competitive greed of the global economy: the money, the property speculation, the frantic rush for consumer attention. Designs that were born of joy and exuberance, such as Gehry's Guggenheim, were treated as marketable commodities, which became a kind of trap.
In that light, the inaccessibility of Ito's architecture is a virtue. Hard to pin down, it is also difficult to brand. By embracing ambiguity, his work forces us to look at the world through a wider lens. It asks us to choose the slowly unfolding narrative over the instant fix.
"I sometimes feel that we are losing an intuitive sense of our own bodies," Ito laments. "Children don't run around outside as much as they did. They sit in front of computer games. Some architects have been trying to find a language for this new generation with very minimalist spaces. I am looking for something more primitive, a kind of abstraction that still has a sense of the body.
"The in between," he says, "is more interesting to me."
|July 24th, 2009, 09:08 PM||#124|
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Will one of Kaohsiung's football teams move in? They have three, but I'm not sure anyone watched them.
|July 25th, 2009, 12:07 AM||#125|
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|July 25th, 2009, 07:02 PM||#126|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Charlotte, NC
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|July 25th, 2009, 07:07 PM||#127|
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The World Games 2009 Kaohsiung
Games bring out curiosity, pride in Kaohsiung's fans
21 July 2009
The build-up to the World Games may have been littered with stories that thousands of tickets remained unsold, but the first few days of competition have seen most venues packed out with enthusiastic crowds of local fans.
Events such as fistball, beach handball, korfball and sumo have all seen strong attendances as Kaohsiung's debut on the world stage is welcomed by the locals.
And as for the fans, residents of Taiwan's second city have a number of different reasons for attending.
For some, the chance to watch some sport, however obscure, was just too good to miss.
Take Kaohsiung-native Huang Shun-fa.
Huang, 29, a chemical engineer by trade, was at Sizihwan on Saturday morning to watch Taiwan's opening game against Oman in beach handball.
While he admitted that he didn't really have any idea what beach handball was when he bought his tickets, the avid sports fan said he figured it would be like beach volleyball and the opportunity to watch some live action was what had brought him to the venue.
Huang, who usually works afternoon shifts, said he was using up all his mornings during the Games to watch as much of the action as possible.He had also purchased tickets to see fistball and gymnastics.
Others were just plain curious.
Student Candice Chuang, 23, was among the small crowd attending the Air Sports competition on Friday with her mother and sister.
Asked why they had made the trip to Metropolitan Park, 23-year-old Chuang said she seldom had the opportunity to see this kind of competition.
They also planned to watch other events, having bought tickets for the roller sports and flying disc competitions.
Some, meanwhile, were there to cheer on friends and family.
High school classmates Cheng Ya-wen, Tang Ting-wei and Wang Yun-shan were attending the ladies beach handball match against Macedonia to cheer on their high school classmate.
And although Taiwan lost, the girls enjoyed the occasion, adding that it was a real honor for Kaohsiung to have the opportunity to host the games.
"We're so glad that Kaohsiung got the chance to host the games because usually Taipei gets everything," Tang said.
And there are those who came just to cheer for Taiwan and revel in the city's hosting of the games.
Student Julia Fu, 30, was among the noisy crowd over at Chungcheng Stadium to cheer on Taiwan's fistball team.
"I'm here to cheer on Taiwan," she said. "I have to admit I didn't know what fistball was at first so I went online to check. When I found out it was like volleyball I decided to come along."
"I'm really excited to be here," she said. "The build up to the World Games has seen Kaohsiung become more beautiful. The traffic has improved and the city is much cleaner. I also went to the opening ceremony and that was great too."