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Taiwan | KAOHSIUNG | Toyo Ito


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Stadium Where Worlds Collide, Humanely

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 will be 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 more famous 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 longstanding 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.

Fonte: The New York Times
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