Coming up with the precise definition of a cultural center is next to impossible. Their varied use in communities across the globe has resulted in multiple interpretations, each one unique with its own set of characteristics.

Though distinctive in nature, cultural centers have a common thought process that governs their ultimate design.

1. Resonating with the people | Cultural Centers

The project’s current cultural context is a more direct parameter needed to design it. The impression of the structure should attract a young demographic that will use the center to its fullest. The keen insight into the current trends is pivotal in defining spaces and influencing people in the right way.

The Ningbo Yinzhou Southern CBD Portal in China is a massive tribute to the booming economy of the area. The cultural center’s positioning at the beginning of the Maritime Silk Road is a core part of its concept. The regional buildings surrounding the transportation hub all provide energetic spaces for crowds to enjoy.

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Ningbo Yinzhou Southern CBD Portal  ©AmphibianArc
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Plaza Area of Ningbo Yinzhou Southern CBD Portal ©AmphibianArc

2. Historical references

A cultural center plays a vital role in retaining values and beliefs for the community. The integration of architectural features, forms, materials, and artwork help imbibe the past as an active part of the future. Moreover, a fundamental feeling of oneness is established, creating a brotherhood that caters to the community.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Kallithea, south of Athens, Greece is an ideal example of a structure looking to connect with the roots of its land. The cultural center is located on top of an artificial hill on the south side of the site.

The strategic positioning of the center is to give a sea view to the public connecting them to the terrain. Kallithea is a seaport that brought prosperity to Athens in ancient times.

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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center ©YerolymbosSNFCC
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Aerial View of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center ©YerolymbosSNFCC

3. Multidisciplinary Spaces

Recognizing spaces and their utility before construction is important. Though a community’s likes and dislikes can be studied, designing an individual space for every whim and fancy of the people is not always possible.

Multidisciplinary spaces are conceptually open-ended as they look to cater to multiple functions. Whether the space is a closed room or an open plaza, they have a massive footprint with minimal obstructions.

The Prelude of the Shed is an extension of a cultural center that can be constructed wherever with relative ease. It has a single large floor plan with movable components. This gives people the ability to create makeshift spaces that cater specifically to the event, performance, or exhibition taking place at the time.

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The Prelude of the Shed ©Timothy Schenck
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The Prelude of the Shed Interior View ©Timothy Schenck

4. Finding the function | Cultural Centers

Identifying the cultural center’s use is the first step in defining it. The function is more often than not derived from the passions or needs of the community.

The Sanyang Brewery in South Korea was abandoned over 30 years ago. Designed in the traditional Japanese colonial architectural style, the structure itself had sentimental value to the locals.

Though the functional aspect of the structure no longer existed, Studio Heech took the initiative of reinventing the use of the building.

Retaining the structure was of paramount importance. The structural intervention of the building was at a bare minimum to avoid any loss of character.

The Sanyang Brewery function is now a flexible space mainly used for exhibitions with an adjoining cafeteria for visitors. The simple change of function allows a redundant building to once again, shine brightly.

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Sanyang Brewery ©Studio Heech
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Exhibition Space ©Studio Heech

5. Integrating Nature 

Nature is a timeless part of any culture and demands the respect and attention of architects that choose to build on it. Aside from determining the energy efficiency of a building, the integration of nature into a structure connects people to the land.

The Tourist Center of Confucius’s Home Village in China is a biophilic approach to design. The location is just north of Mount Ni at the end of the Luvyan Village. The rustic setup called for a sensitive approach to the project.

The project is extruded from the earth with multiple voids in the built form used solely to connect to the natural scenic beauty of the site.

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The Tourist Center of Confucius’s Home Village ©INNS
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The Tourist Center of Confucius’s Home Village Interior View ©INNS

6. Contributing to the Future

Sculpting the community for the years to come is another intricate part of any cultural center. A vision for the society in the coming years is just as important as retaining the values of old.

The Mi Casita Pre-School and Cultural Centre in Brooklyn, New York contribute to society by educating toddlers. This broad perception of society is an interesting take on cultural centers in the heart of an urban landscape.

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Mi Casita Pre-School and Cultural Centre Playroom Image © Lesley Unruh
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Mi Casita Pre-School and Cultural Centre Entrance ©Lesley Unruh

7. Material and Form

The built form surrounding people for every second of every day influences them and, in turn, the community. As a direct result of this influence, culture is established. Hence, retaining the structural context is vital to the success of any cultural center looking to harness the community’s spirit.

Malmö Live in Malmö, Sweden finds solace in the urban setup and abstracts its own version of a design from its context.

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Malmö Live Image View 1 ©Adam Mørk
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Malmö Live Image View 2 ©Adam Mørk

8. A Reason

Designing a public cultural center usually has deep-seated reasoning behind it. Cultural centers and their concepts are always at the forefront of designs. However, the funding and reasoning behind the timely construction always revolve around a particular motive.

The University of Kansas DeBruce Center was crafted to house The Original 13′ Rules of Basketball by James Naismith. The auxiliary functions justify the building, though the part reason and concept behind it, is derived from the document.

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The University of Kansas DeBruce Center ©Steve Hall
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The University of Kansas DeBruce Center Interior View ©Steve Hall

9. Religion | Cultural Centers

Nothing brings a community together like religion. Identifying the people and their faiths while devising a project is another way of translating culture into design.

Muslim Cultural Center in Langfang, China caters to the Muslim enclave in the Da Chang district. Islamic architecture and its potent style highlight an almost poetic structure that leaves a lasting impression.

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Front elevation of Muslim Cultural Center ©Yao Li
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Interiors of Muslim Cultural Center ©Yao Li

10. Intuitive Design

An engaging facade and an abundance of versatile spaces are pivotal in the assimilation of a cultural center.

Zinder Cultural Center in Tiel, Netherlands has been branded as an entertainment hub by the government of Tiel. Dance & music lessons, exhibitions, even pop concerts.

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Zinder Cultural Center ©www.scagliolabrakkee.nl
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Zinder Cultural Center ©www.scagliolabrakkee.nl
Kunal Mathur
Author

Kunal is a charismatic individual, with a passion for food, travel and of course writing. His thirst for new experiences has helped him develop diverse portfolio of talents. He has worked with NGO’s pertaining to animals, children, and rural development while working as an architect for large corporations.

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