Han Pao-Teh is widely regarded as a seminal figure in modern architectural theory in Taiwan. In recognition of his significant contributions to the arts, his family commissioned a memorial museum at the Tainan University of the Arts, an institution he founded. The purpose of this museum was to provide both educational and exhibition spaces for his works and collections. In the early stages, the team proposed to create several suspended boxes floating above the student activity space, symbolizing Han’s achievements in various fields. Reflecting Han’s own views on museums and the importance of education, the design evolved to a simple column-free volume of architectural concrete, which seamlessly integrates exhibition and teaching spaces to facilitate experiential learning.
Embracing the architectural principle of ‘a cube within a cube’, the simplicity in the geometric forms is imbued with a significant force and symbolism. The collision of the two cubes creates multiple facets, much like the diverse range of knowledge that Han possesses. The resilience of architectural concrete can be seen as a metaphor for an indomitable spirit.
Taking advantage of the existing topography, this cube of the memorial museum is nestled into the slope, forming an open forecourt that serves as a welcoming gesture. The building’s spatial arrangement invites visitors to ascend a low-rise staircase above a reflecting pool and enter through a side entrance adjacent to the main cube. Within the impressive 13.5-meter-tall student exhibition space, an imposing cubic mass appears to defy gravity as it floats above the area. This cube houses the Han Pao-Teh’s Permanent Exhibition, a two-story, auditorium-like space that juts diagonally from the larger cube. The rotated cube creates a fissure in the wall, through which light dramatically casts into the cavernous exhibition space, casting sharp shadows and imbuing the atmosphere with an air of theatricality. The slender skylights and wall openings create a stage for the changing light and shadow, and convert the simple and pure space into an interesting light box. The decorations is intentionally kept minimal to exhibit craftsmanship of architectural concrete, also minimizes material waste during construction. The strategically placed slits in the architecture serve a dual purpose. They not only create dramatic plays of natural light but also effectively mitigate heat gain in the hot and humid tropical climate. The 40cm thick walls also function as a thermal mass, helping to maintain cool interior spaces.
A generously sized window on the ground floor which has been recessed to mitigate direct sunlight, affords visitors a view of the verdant outdoors, leading them to embark on a theatrical ascent via a counter-clockwise staircase that traverses between the interior and exterior of the building. The overhanging stairs outside the structure enable visitors to take in the landscape from a new perspective before proceeding into the Han Pao-Teh Permanent Exhibition. The journey culminates in a narrow, gorge-like pathway that concludes the upward climb and delivers visitors to the building’s top level.