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Toyo Ito Conquers the Digital-Analog Divide

Catenoidal space is not the easiest thing to wrap your head around. Think complex curving tubes. How to build it? Toyo Ito found the solution with a mix of digital and analog processes. Here we present a special preview of our Cubes 85 Apr/May feature on the National Taichung Theatre, Taiwan.

Toyo Ito Conquers the Digital-Analog Divide

Photography by Sergio Pirrone

Last year saw the realisation of an 11-year-long dream for Toyo Ito. The completion of the National Taichung Theater building (with local architect Da-Ju Architects and Associates) has introduced a new environment to the people of Taichung city – an extension of the adjacent recreational park into a complex and intricate interior shaped by a continuously curved structure that has been dubbed the ‘Sound Cave’.

Financed by the Taichung City Government, the building is an integrated spatial-structural system that provides a sense of nature’s dynamism. It draws people through a perpetually emergent network of openings, conveying them upwards with the curving currents of staircases, and transferring them out onto a rooftop landscape of abstract peaks and valleys. Ito perceives the continuous route that connects the ground-level city garden to the rooftop as “a pleasant walking trail in the park.”

The ‘Sound Cave’ consists of a Grand Theatre (seating 2007 people), a Play House (seating 800) and a Black Box theatre (seating 200), with equally captivating circulation spaces as well as shops, a restaurant and a gallery area. The beamless structure of curved walls, merging into floors and ceilings, creates spaces where, by Ito’s account, “light and sound travel fluently creating a unique and extraordinary experience.”

The composition is essentially a series of connected ‘catenoidal’ spaces. A catenoid is a type of curved surface generated by rotating a catenary curve around an axis. In simpler terms, it is akin to a tube with a curving wall that appears to have been gently pinched around the middle. The construction of the catenoidal building required digital and analog processes, ultimately being realised with a complex ‘truss-wall’ construction method – a more cost-effective alternative to conventional concrete formwork.

Read the full story in Cubes issue 85 (Apr/May), including Razvan Ghilic-Micu’s interview with Toyo Ito. Cubes 85, sporting a brand new look, will be on sale in early April!

Photography by Sergio Pirrone.

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