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June 26, 2017

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U.S. architectural firm quits NPM southern branch project

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A firm set up in Taiwan by renowned U.S. architect Antoine Predock, which was selected to design the National Palace Museum's (NPM) Southern Branch, announced its withdrawal from the project.

Antoine Predock Architect PC announced Tuesday that it was quitting the southern branch's design project with immediate effect and asked the NPM headquarters in Taipei for compensation of NT$40 million (US$1.21 million) for losses incurred. The architectural firm was selected by a competition jury four years ago from a field of 6 finalists to design the NPM Southern Branch in Chiayi County.

According to Chiayi County officials in charge of cultural affairs, Antoine Predock Architect PC decided unilaterally to pull out probably because it failed to reach an accommodation with the NPM over serious construction delays, the firm's specified design methods and the quality of the building materials.

The officials said the NPM's acquiescence to the firm's demands would have increased construction costs on the project by 30 percent.

Despite the withdrawal of the architectural firm, the project could still proceed, as long as the NPM reopens international bidding for the design and the budget is approved, the officials said.

"The southern branch could still be built by 2011 as originally scheduled, if the construction budget is passed by the Legislative Yuan in time," they said.

The Executive Yuan approved the construction of the southern branch in 2003, estimating that the branch museum would be built on a site of 70 hectares with a total budget of approximately NT$6 billion.

The budget for clearing the land alone, which included digging an artificial lake, planting trees, irrigation and water-drainage systems, was NT$450 million. As of Jan. 7, the project should have been 20.81 percent complete. However, the actual completion rate was just 11.9 percent, and since 2003 the annual budget for the project has not been approved by the Legislative Yuan.6

The building was to be designed as a 60-meter tall structure in the shape of Mt. Jade, which would have been visible to passengers on the high speed railway system between Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Explaining the design concept in 2004, Predock said, "Our proposal brings into focus a synthesizing concept of the intimate, varied Pan-Asian universe that the NPM Southern Branch intends to illuminate: 'the need to know ourselves and other Asian regions as well.'"

"Like Lin Hwai min and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan's 2001 production 'Cursive', visitors move through space and atmosphere, 'imitating the linear route of ink, full of lyrical flows and strong punctions, with rich variations in energy,'" he said. Chiayi County Magistrate Chen Ming-wen gave the assurance earlier this year that despite serious construction delays, the southern branch of the NPM would open on schedule in 2011.

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