Steven Holl's 'intersecting spheres' scheme for Taipei necropolis gets green light

The schematic design has been approved for the 50 000-sm Arrival Hall and Oceanic Pavilion for the Taiwan ChinPaoSan Necropolis.

October 09, 2014 |
All graphics: Steven Holl Architects

The schematic design has been approved for the 50 000-sm Arrival Hall and Oceanic Pavilion for the Taiwan ChinPaoSan Necropolis.

Set on an ocean-view site 40 minutes from Taipei, the arrival hall and pavilion will serve the historic complex, which has more than 10,000 existing burial sites. 

The arrival building will contain a 21-room hotel, restaurant, ceremonial chapel, auditorium, and two small museums. The new pavilion will accommodate 1,000 people for ceremonial days, as well as 50 presiding Buddhist monks conducting ceremonies. The plan also features an adjoining amphitheater with seating for 5,000.  

Design Concept

After exploring more than 30 schemes in a search for sacred space for the site, watercolor drawings of intersecting circles with their inherent universal properties and suggestive circulation typologies gradually became intersecting spheres. Model studies, which yielded amazing overlapping perspectives, created an astonishing spatial energy.    

The geometry of intersected spheres refers back to a rich ancient history of symbolism. Borromean Rings appeared in Buddhist Art, Viking rune-stones, and Roman mosaics thousands of years ago. Christians have also used this symbol to portray or represent the unity of the Holy Trinity. Borromean Rings also represent the karmic laws of the universe and the interconnectedness of life. In the I Ching, the earth is represented as a square and the heavens as a circle. 

 

 

In our design, the intersecting spheres are embedded in a rectangular plan topped by a sheet of water, pulling the ocean horizon into the composition. Photovoltaic cells sit inches below this water sheet providing 60% of the electricity for both buildings. The cooling via the water increases the photovoltaic efficiency by 20%.  

Natural light is brought into the building section via openings in the intersecting spheres. Urn shelving, which occupies most of the building’s section, is arranged in different typologies: radial, circular, and orthogonal.    

Construction of the Oceanic Pavilion is in white concrete with black granite floors. Hinoki wood is used for doors and partitions. Ceremonial areas are treated in translucent alabaster and gold-leaf. 

The arrival building, with its 21-room hotel and restaurant, takes the shape of the allotted plot extruded into four levels with spherical subtractions.  

Construction of the 500,000-sf complex will begin in May 2015.   

 

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