When Neil Denari Meets Taiwan: The New Keelung Harbor Service Project

Thursday: ArTchitecture

When Taiwan meets architects and meets Mac fashion and meets avant-garde: NEIL DENARI plans Taiwan’s largest Port and a small city.

The New Keelung Harbor Service Project by NMDA

In September 2012 NMDA (Neil M. Denari Architects) won the international competition for the New Keelung Harbor Service Project. The Project is for a $211 million Harbor Service complex, a building that will act as a welcome center and an administrative headquarters for the busy trading port, becoming a port of call for thousands of cruise ships, cargo ships, and military vessels every month as well as those who just love to be in one of the most hectic place in the world.

The Port of Keelung serves, at times, 10,000 cruise ship passengers a day, making it Taiwan’s largest port of entry into the country. Keelung lies on the Northern Coast of Taiwan, 23 kilometers Northeast of Taipei on the often cloud covered slopes of the Keelung Mountains. Known as the rainy port, Keelung with its wet climate, has a lush green collar surrounding its 350,000 inhabitants. For NMDA, the specifics of the site both locally and regionally have impacted the design in its massing and materials and colors.

The Project by NMDA is a twist, a swirl, an intertwining, a connection and break of lines, channels and floors, thus forming what could look like a small city. Apart from the unusual shape, it is the facade which attracts. It is in fact a facade which very much resembles the Mac as it looks like made of the same “Mac” trademark material: titanium. The “small city”, let’s call it this way, will be made up of a welcoming terminal, offices, shipping passage, shopping mezzanine, boardwalk, pathways, skylights and what’s more. The Northern end of the terminal turns vertical as it supports a cantilevered scenic restaurant, which itself becomes a bridge to the second phase office complex. Below the Gateway Tower is a boardwalk called “the Shoelace” that forms a connective loop / roundabout to other directions on the boardwalk level.

Across the main drop off road, the main office building which will house the Harbor authority, police station, a large post office transfer facilities, a weather station, and a vast array of harbor support offices, is a 53,000 square meter, 70 meter tall structure. Based on a courtyard type, the building is a distorted and punctured form whose specific cantilevers and surface orientations are based on prevailing views and breezes. Punched windows move across two floors and in various directions, two attributes that change the perception of the size of the building. The main mass opens up at the lower floors on the street/access side of the site, exposing chartreuse and sea foam green circulation cores, creating an in-between reading of a hollowed out solid and a building on columns. An expansive public plaza occupies the roof of the service base of the site. The plaza is connected to pathways that move in and around the office building and the terminal that connect with the seaside boardwalk.

It is once again a “keeping-you-with-your-mouth-wide-open” architecture, and once again in Asia. I cannot wait for it to be completed and visit Taiwan for the first time and in style 🙂

And as a personal note: The twisted angle at the top, hanging in the air, against gravity, reminds me very much of OMA’s CCTV Headquarters constructed in Beijing, China. OMA’s architects were the first to experiment with what can be called 3-D architecture and it’s fascinating to see how architecture has adapted to the times and changed. It is interesting to see influences growing and the look changing. I’d hope to see more and more of these 3-D style entering in our cities.


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