MEETING planners are entering an era in which hybrid events are becoming the new normal. So it is appropriate that the world’s foremost conference for association organisers is coming to Kaohsiung, to convene in one of Asia’s showpiece business event venues.
As Kaohsiung Exhibition Center (KEC) hosts the 59th ICCA Congress during November 1–3, the venue and surrounding destination will symbolise the new face of Taiwan’s southern maritime city.
With the ICCA Congress adopting a hybrid format and implementing the technology necessary to achieve this, delegates gathered at the KEC and those who are watching the live stream of the event will also see how Kaohsiung has undergone its own transformation.
Few places in north Asia exemplify the revitalisation of former docklands better than Taiwan’s second largest port. Kaohsiung’s maritime quarter has emerged from its industrial era into a modern waterfront with amenities that harmonise business and leisure.
Kaohsiung Exhibition Center was the first architectural marvel to take shape along the redeveloped waterfront under the city’s New Bay Area rejuvenation strategy, which also enhanced the character of the old docklands by revamping former warehouses to emerge as the Pier-2 Arts District.
After the KEC opened in 2014, it soon became an award-winning business event showpiece. Further inland on a former military base rose the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying), while on the waterfront the Kaohsiung Music Center completes a trilogy of new venues that are overlooked by the rocket-like 85 Sky Tower, the city’s tallest structure.
Let’s explore Kaohsiung’s new waterfront district with its stylish architecture along with unique settings in other parts of the city where groups can do business, unwind and connect with Taiwan.
Kaohsiung Exhibition Center (KEC)
As the first new landmark along the city’s burgeoning waterfront precinct, the KEC represents a new era for Taiwan’s MICE industry and will provide a prestigious base for the ICCA Congress in November.
The KEC’s first event after it opened in 2014 was a yacht show, a fitting debut considering the venue’s wave-like structure and maritime surroundings.
KEC has since held events ranging from association meetings and banquets to exhibitions and social occasions. Conference rooms can be configured to hold between 20 and 2,000 delegates, with an indoor capacity for up to 4,000 attendees.
Not only is the KEC an environmentally friendly building, its high-tech communication capabilities make it an ideal facility to host hybrid meetings, which organisers are increasingly demanding as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt travel.
Kaohsiung Music Center
Another symbol of Asia’s New Bay Area is found in a unique venue that is sure to impress business event organisers as much as the visiting international pop acts that perform there.
Kaohsiung Music Center’s Wave Towers form the focal point of this music-themed complex linked by a bridge across Love River. The towers feature a performance hall, outdoor plaza and Live Warehouse with easy access to spaces such as Dolphin Walk and the Coral Zone.
Similar to the neighbouring KEC, marine elements such as waves and coral have been incorporated into Kaohsiung Music Center’s design to reflect the area’s maritime heritage and make the complex a unique visitor destination.
The design is the work of a Spanish architecture firm MADE IN which approached the project on the principle that the Kaohsiung Music Center should not only come to life during events, but also be enjoyed daily by the community and visitors to the city.
National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying)
Further inland from the port are the Fengshan parklands, where another example of Kaohsiung’s rejuvenation is found in the form of an arts centre, currently the largest of its type in the world.
This is where groups will find Kaohsiung’s performance arts and the impressive venues where they are performed: the Opera House; Playhouse; Recital Hall; and the Concert Hall, which features Taiwan’s largest pipe organ – a German-made colossus equipped with 9,085 pipes.
Netherlands architectural firm Mecanoo’s design of the center was inspired by the banyan trees that have long grown around Fengshan. As with the expansive crown of the banyan, the arts center’s canopy structure provides optimum shade for the public spaces beneath the performance venues. These sheltered areas are another example of Kaohsiung’s modern venues being designed to integrate with the local community and visiting groups.
A tribute to the nature of the surrounding area, the center’s curved-steel structure also harkens back to Kaohsiung’s industrial era when it was an important hub for shipbuilding and repairing. A Dutch and Kaohsiung shipbuilder actually teamed up to create the venue’s undulating steel structure, ensuring the city’s nautical DNA was built into the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts.
More waterfront landmarks
Pier-2 Arts Center: Returning to the waterfront and north along the shore from the KEC, is an area where community, new media and independent artists find an outlet. Clusters of former seaside warehouses have been renewed as studios, performance spaces and chic cafes. Banana Warehouse on the shorefront is a favourite stop-off point for refreshments and offers quirky nostalgia from the days when southern Taiwan exported bananas and other fruits far and wide on ships waiting at the quays.
Love River: Romance is never far from modern and colonial landmarks of Kaohsiung. Love River meanders from the piers and quays between KEC and the Pier-2 Arts District then north past a photogenic spot appropriately called Heart of Love River. Cupid letting loose his arrow is not the only action along Kaohsiung’s main river. Its shores set the scene for light shows, dragon boat races, boat cruises, cycling, cafes and, of course, photo opportunities.
Sizihwan Bay: Competing for the title of Kaohsiung’s most romantic spot is one of the city’s beaches, which also gets high ratings for scenery, especially at sunrise and sunset. The beach is a splendid spot for delegates to unwind after a day of meetings, with nearby seafood restaurants, historic landmarks, and simply blissful views of the horizon.