The Association of South East Asian Nations, commonly referred to as ASEAN, is a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia which was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand. Its aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, the protection of the peace and stability of the region, and providing opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully. From 1984 to 1999, five other
countries-- Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia joined the organization.
Among the many purposes of ASEAN is the development and exchange of social and cultural movements of each participating nation. It is quite a challenge to define ASEAN as a whole because of the unique characteristics of each participating nation. As a result of the history of the ASEAN community over the last 40 years, citizens of South East Asia have experienced mutual economic
growth and enrichment through the exposure of their individual cultures. This movement has had the extraordinary effect of ending centuries of warfare and created a harmonious community respectful of religious, linguistic, and racial differences.
Washington, DC is an ideal place to bring the remarkable ASEAN experience to the eyes of the world. As the capital of the United States, this city offers a generous number of world-renowned museums and special exhibits that attract millions of domestic and international visitors. Therefore, it is a highly appropriate site to establish an ASEAN Cultural and Performing Art Center (CPAC).
The three operating objectives of the ASEAN CPAC are:
- To provide a venue for training and performance of musical, dance and artistic expression of the ten nations of Southeast Asia to the American public.
- To provide exhibition space to showcase the cultural and historical artifacts and Asian contemporary art.
- To provide a welcoming meeting space for special events and conferences
There are dozens of organizations and institutions in Washington, D.C. that promote Asian Arts awareness to the metropolitan area. The Asia Society, based in New York City, has a satellite office in downtown Washington. This office only accommodates meetings and conferences related to U.S.- Asian commercial and governmental issues. The Asia Heritage Foundation based in Washington, D.C. hosts annual outdoor events in the summer. Local dance troupes and even international performances are invited to this once yearly event to perform on the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue. This is truly a commendable effort, but is it sufficient? Several institutions, such as the Smithsonian, maintain a permanent collection of Asian historical artifacts and artwork. However these are traditional galleries, which display works of art in a static fashion. They lack the dimension of providing for live musical and dance performance, and interactive activities. Some ASEAN countries do organize small performances
either at an embassy or other private venues. However, many fail to reach a large audience because the available event space is too small or they are not accessible to the public. The lack of organized marketing effort and often highticket prices also limit a larger audience.
With the development of the ASEAN CPAC, the public can enjoy the variety of performances held at the venue and maybe even learn a step or two from dance movements from the ten participating Asian countries. They also have the opportunity to view specialized and temporary exhibitions, such as traditional or contemporary Asian artwork in the gallery area while sipping a hot cup of Thai coffee.
In my initial research, I have discovered that there are several organizations that have a similar concept. One of them is the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC. This world-known organization has 147 institutes in 83 different countries.
Several initial issues under consideration in locating the site for this project are the type, size, and location of the building. I have considered several sites that may be appropriate for the rather large scale of this project. Some of the examples are The Katzen Arts Center at the American University, The Kennedy Center, and the Martin Luther King Library. By the same token, I envisioned the site to be centrally located in the Washington, D.C. “tourist zone” that could be easily accessible by public transport. The size of the site needed to be at least 20,000 to 30,000 square feet to allow all the activities I envisioned to exist under one roof.
I have chosen a site at 10th and H Street in the old downtown close to what we know as Chinatown. This site is chosen because it is available and currently undeveloped. It is also easily accessible to 4 metro stops and numerous public bus routes and lastly, it is in broad location to numerous museums, galleries and other frequently visited sites.
My design strategy is to incorporate Asian architectural elements combined with modern architectural influences found in performing arts center located around the world. This project is ambitious because the concept invites such a broad vision. How does one bring together all the Asian aesthetic influences into one space without looking like an Asian theme park? This is both the challenge and the opportunity in this project.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Masters of Arts
Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, D.C.)
Masters Theses from the Corcoran College of Art + Design
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