The 2019 London Festival of Architecture (June 1-30) marks the second consecutive year of participation by Taiwan. This year the Founder & Creative Director of Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo Francine Houben was invited to deliver a lecture at the V&A Museum on 24 June titled Designing for Culture, followed by a Q&A session with renowned architectural journalist Herbert Wright from Blueprint magazine. With more than 120 people in attendance, Francine explained to an enthralled crowd how she works to inject local cultural elements into modern architectural design.
Mecanoo is an internationally recognized architectural firm founded by Francine in 1984 in The Netherlands. Since it’s founding it has gone on to design some of the world’s most iconic and innovative new buildings, including the Birmingham Library (UK), the Palace of Justice (Spain), and the renovation project of the New York Public Library (US). In Taiwan, alongside the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying), the firm is also working on projects including Kaohsiung Station, Kaohsiung Social Housing, and the Tainan Public Library.
Houben explained in her discussion that her architectural philosophy is "People, Place, Purpose", emphasizing that architecture must consider human culture, value the local environment and understand the functions that the venue requires. She cited Weiwuying as an example of cultural architecture, pointing out that the design was inspired by the local Banyan trees which represent Kaohsiung’s climate, and its shipbuilding industry, thus inspiring the creation of the building. The cultural centre is designed with five performance spaces, all of various size. Combining formal and informal, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, it is has been recognized as the largest performing arts venue in the world under one roof.
Houben also mentioned that she is most happy to see that the Weiwuying is now a bridge connecting people and culture. For example, in the semi-outdoor spaces, children can play games, people do yoga, play the piano or watch outdoor movie screenings. Cultural activities naturally occur in every space, and everyone can can have the opportunity to enjoy them.
In his welcome speech, Deputy Representative Mr Shyang-Yun Cheng thanked Francine for her role in what he called Taiwan’s greatest cultural investment in a generation