Friday, December 7, 2012

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A couple days ago my friend Estefany, who is currently studying Architecture at Columbia, sent me a photo of this structure. Can you guess what was being built and what material was used for its "skin"? The first question is easy for the flat surface indicates that it is some sort of stadium for soccer or rugby. But the second one is a little bit tricky because it is actually not a common material. The Kaohsiung National Stadium in Taiwan uses 8,844 solar panels as its exterior skin not just for aesthetic purposes, but for functionality as well. Japanese architect Toyo Ito spearheaded this project and it was completed in 2009. Though it is not a current project, it is the first project I have come across with the heavy use of solar panels. With big sports structures, every design team is trying to add a unique feature or come up with an original concept. During the Summer Olympics I did a blog entry about London's main stadium and the unique "lego" structure. For those who don't know, the architecture firm hired to do the stadium designed its frame where it can be disassembled like a set of lego's and still be functional. In Los Angeles, architects at Gensler will erect the first LEED accredited stadium for an NFL team. Though this project was completed 3 years ago, you can see every year something unique, genius and aspiring is created. It is like televisions. Remember when the first plasma television came out and it was the most incredible thing for t.v. lovers? Well, those t.v.'s are old news which is kind of crazy to think it was only a few years ago when they came out. Now there is the LED Smart TV with some having 3D capability. 

Even though this stadium is old news if you use my t.v. analogy, it is still incredible to think that this is possible. As the environment becomes a bigger issue, I am seeing houses in my neighborhood with panels on their roofs. It benefits the user and environment because you are using something natural in your advantage, without disrupting or damaging it. The 55,000 seat stadium was built to host the World Games with at a low cost of $150 million to complete. At its completetion it was the largest solar-powered stadium, with a roof that has surface area of 14,155 meters squared. 

Naomi R. Pollock, AIA, wrote an article for web magazine Architectural Record where she described the structure as: "In a fitting match of design and Program, Toyo Ito Performed a feat of architectural athleticism with his National Stadium of the Sports Affairs Council in Taiwan. Combining the grace of a ballet dancer with the strength of a body builder, its lithe, sinewy from encircles a playing field, while its brawny concrete and steel components do the heavy lifting." And along with this balance of grace and strength comes the incorporation of the surrounding landscape and its natural feel. Because of the panels, the stadium has the aesthetic of a snake or dragon, so many people refer to this stadium as the "dragon" in Taiwan. Ito is quoted that large stadiums are usually static and so he 'wanted to make a more fluid and dynamic shape.' The "tail" of the structure greets the fans that use the subway as a means of transportation to the stadium. It gradually elevates complementing the slope of the landscape where it wraps around the field and ends at the "head." I enjoy the design because the ends do not connect allowing the landscape to flow into the stands and field, and for athletic events to spill out to the streets.

The biggest skepticism of the project was its functionality at night. People asked how it would work at night if there is no sun. The answer is: during the day the stadium would collect and store the energy so they can use it for night events. Even when there are no events going on the stadium is still hard at work. One of the requests for the design was to make sure it was sustainable, so Ito decided to use solar panels because it would also benefit the city when there is nothing going on athletically. It generates about 1.14 gigawatt hours of electricity every year, which outputs enough power to supply 80% of the neighborhood. Like my favorite architect Tadao Ando, Japanese architects love to include the surround landscape. I mean, I would like to believe every architect does, but Japanese architecture especially take in consideration the surroundings and uses it to their advantage. The way the stadium flows gracefully with the sloping landscape and its long winding roof makes it soothing on the eyes and works well with the foot traffic that occurs during events. I love coming across projects like this or being introduced to them because it sparks ideas in my head. Can't wait to be part of a team that designs a huge stadium or arena and featuring something that has never been seen or used before! Big shootout to Estefany for sending me this, and I am glad people are shooting me links to subjects of areas I enjoy.

Below is the link for Pollock's article she wrote for Architectural Record.

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