Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kaohsiung's National Stadium

Last month I attended a meeting at Kaohsiung's National Stadium (國家體育場), a landmark building completed just ahead of the 2009 World Games. The stadium hosted the Games' opening and closing ceremonies. It's in the northwestern part of the city, next to the ROC Naval Academy, and can be seen on the seaward side of the KMRT Red Line if you're travelling between Zuoying (Kaohsiung's high-speed railway station) and Ciaotou. Since the World Games, the stadium has been Taiwan's no. 1 soccer venue, and often hosts pop concerts.
There are several small bodies of water around the 40,000-seat stadium, plus an artificial creek. These were added for aethetic as well as environmental reasons, and work well. I was amazed at the number of fish (including some at least 20cm long), and less surprised to see egrets taking advantage of this food source.
Ahead of the meeting, I had time to walk the whole way around the stadium, which stands on a 19-hectare plot of land and cost a reported US$170 million. The architect, Japan's Toyo Ito (伊東豊雄), was awarded the 2013 Pritzker Prize, and I wouldn't be surprised if this stadium was a major factor in his winning.

Various tree species have been planted, including betel nut (shown in the third image). It's well known that the cultivation of betel nut on hillsides leads to erosion; the palm has very shallow roots, and because the leaves provide so little shade, topsoil dries out quickly. But on flat land they're OK, I suppose.

As with other recent infrastructure projects in Taiwan, public art (fourth and fifth photos) adds colour to the surroundings. What isn't obvious from street level is that much of the roof is covered with electricity-generating solar panels which produce about 80% of the power used by the stadium each year. However, because many of the events are held at night, but the panels produce electricity during the day, the stadium's management are able to sell surplus power to the national grid almost every day.
Rather than having a conventional circle or oval shape, when seen from the sky the stadium looks a little like a question mark which has lost its dot. The photo below comes from a Kaohsiung City Government webpage.

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