The impressive-looking National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts – also called Weiwuying – which opened in Taiwan in October, is the largest performing arts centre in the world.

The project, which was built at a cost of NT$10.7 billion (US$360 million) over eight years, is the most significant cultural project in Taiwan for more than two decades.

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Here are 5 things you should know about this extraordinary building.

1. How big is it?

The project covers a total area of 141,000 square metres (1.5 million square feet), set across the 470,000-square-metre Weiwuying Metropolitan Park, which was used as a military base until 1979. The spectacular rectangular building, which is 225 metres (740 feet) long and 160 metres wide, covers 36,000 square metres.

The sinuous canopy covers four indoor performance spaces – the Concert Hall, with 2,236 seats; Opera House (1,981 seats); Play House (1,210 seats); and Recital Hall (434 seats). There is an outdoor theatre set on one side of the roof, linking the building with the park.

2. What are the architectural design themes and features?

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The centre was created by the architectural firm of Mecanoo, from the Netherlands, which has also worked on Birmingham’s new public library in England; the Delft railway station in the Netherlands; the Kaohsiung Station underground station project; and the ongoing renovation of New York Public Library.

The design was inspired by the banyan trees commonly found in the area’s park.

Mecanoo said the canopy signifies banyan tree crowns, which glide to the ground in a smooth curve.

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The stunning Banyan Plaza, which resembles banyan tree trunks and shaded open spaces, is the heart and main entrance of the centre, offering access to all of the theatres.

The plaza is open to the public at all times and is the venue for a variety of programmes and activities.

The space is flooded with natural light by day. At night it is illuminated by an array of different lighting that can be adapted to suit the needs of those groups using the space.

The centre also includes flying saucer-like pendant lights with a diameter of 350 centimetres (140 inches).

3. Any special materials and technique used for the construction?

The underside of the canopy is clad in 2,320 individually curved 6-millimetre (0.2-inch)-thick steel tiles.

The total steel skin surface area covers 23,000 square metres and weighs 1,520 tonnes.

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Initially, the architectural firm wanted to cover the canopy with tiles – either aluminium or with a stucco (fine plaster) covering – before settling on steel tiles.

The welds between the steel plates are visible, just like those of a cargo ship, and there are also waterline markings at various points of the plaza to indicate the building’s height above sea level.

These details reflect Kaohsiung’s history as a shipbuilding centre.

4. How are the acoustics at the Opera House?

Acoustics inside the Opera House have been optimised for clarity, as audiences are likely to be watching many performances in foreign languages.

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The concert hall has been equipped with vineyard-style seating to avoid cantilevered balconies, so that every audience member can enjoy the sound reflection from the ceiling.

Designed to look like a bamboo grove, the hall’s double-instrument organ was manufactured by the German company Orgelbau Klais.

With a total of 9,085 pipes (a symphonic organ with 7,169 pipes and an echo organ with 1,916 pipes), the twin instrument is the largest built by the company since its establishment in 1882.

The Opera House also has a horseshoe layout to ensure no seat is more than 38 metres from the stage.

5. How to get there?

The centre is located on No 1, Sanduo First Road, in Fengshan District in Kaohsiung city.

By Metro, take the Orange line to Weiwuying Station (010); the centre is near to Exit 6.

Visitors travelling by Taiwan Railways can get off at Kaohsiung Main Station and then transfer to the Metro system, while those travelling on Taiwan’s high-speed rail can get off at Zuoying Station and change to the Metro system.

People can also travel there by taking the number 52 or 70 buses, and getting off at the “National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts (Weiwuying)” stop.

The centre is also accessible by using other bus routes serving the nearby Jianjun Station.

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