In the last five years, the world has seen a proliferation of performance centres that propose, according to a mysterious consensus, versions of a more or less identical combination: large (2,000-seat) auditorium, medium (1,500-seat) theatre, completed by a black box. Contemporary forms disguise conservative typologies: theatre configurations based on 19th century practice (and symbolism: balconies as evidence of social stratification). Even though the essential elements of the theater – stage, proscenium, auditorium – are more than 3,000 years old, there is no excuse for this stagnation, which is oblivious to experiment and ignores relevant 20th century innovation.The Taipei Performing Arts Centre consists of three theatres that plug into a central cube, combining the stages (and backstages) of the three theatres in a single and efficient whole. Each theatre can be used independently or in combination, offering the possibility for theatrical experimentation and unique views through the stage and into the other auditoriums.The TPAC aims to preserve and channel the existing energies of its site: instead of replacing the vibrant Shi Lin Night Market, it will be on stilts above it, engaging with a diverse public. Theatre-goers in Taipei include all generations – young and old – and, seemingly, all classes. Theatre directors are cult heroes. The TPAC is not a token sign of culture but a sophisticated tool embedded in the urban fabric and equal to the ambition of Taiwan's theatre-makers. Theatres typically have a "face" and a back side; on this site, that is a luxury we cannot afford. Through its compactness, the TPAC has four different "faces", each inviting and promising entertainment. Grand and Multiform theatres emerge from the south and the north face. Cheng De Road is marked by four towers – lifts and back-of-house accommodation appropriate to the existing street facade. The spherical Proscenium Playhouse projects out of the cube, an emblematic image of a suspended planet that will be visible from afar. Consolidating the stage apparatus of the three theatres in a cube, excavating from it diverse public areas, and cladding the whole in corrugated glass, creates an illuminated, animated background against which the individual auditoriums read like mysterious, dark elements. The transparency of the core and the activities revealed inside it will make visitors and non-visitors alike active participants in its aura.