The Aduana Building, also known as the Intendencia, is located just outside the walls of Intramuros, the historic center of Spanish colonial Manila. Originally built as a customs house in the 1820s, it has undergone several cycles of destruction and renewal starting in 1863, when the building was almost completely destroyed by the same strong earthquake that leveled much of the old city. Rebuilt in the mid-1870s, it served various government functions—office of the National Archives, first home of the Philippines Senate, and again the Bureau of Customs—before it was ravaged during the initial and final bombing campaigns of World War II. After reconstruction it again served as the offices of different government agencies before it was finally abandoned following a devastating fire in 1979. Restoration plans have been floated since the 1990s but as of late 2015, when I wandered by, the Aduana Building remains in ruin.
Not long after ushering in the new year in Taipei 台北 I made an unplanned visit to Tainan 台南, where I lived back in 2014, and spent an afternoon wandering around town with fellow blogger and photographer Josh Ellis. We captured a lot that day—including this mandala pasted onto a wall in the alleyway leading to Pǔjìdiàn 普濟殿, a reliably eventful temple known, among other things, for displaying hundreds of lanterns over new year’s. Looking closely you should be able to discern a rooster in the mandala, for it is now the Year of the Fire Rooster 火雞年 according to the Chinese zodiac 屬相. Combining the twelve animals of the zodiac with the Five Elements 五行 (wood 木, fire 火, earth 土, metal 金, and water 水), yields the Sexagenary Cycle 六十干支, deified as the sixty Tài Suì 太歲 gods commonly seen in Taiwanese temples. If you want to be cheeky about it you could call this the “year of the turkey”, for “fire chicken” or huǒjī 火雞 is the Chinese word for turkey, a linguistic quirk elaborated here.
Yesterday I wandered through Malate, a commercial district at the south end of Manila, in search of the ruins of the historic Gaiety Theater. Unfortunately the building was demolished sometime last year—something that the Wikipedia entry didn’t mention until I updated it with my findings. Of course I was also capturing photos along the way, among them this shot of the entrance to Kimura キムラ, a small hostess club obviously catering to a Japanese clientele. Such bars are common anywhere Japanese businessmen travel in Asia and you can read a little more about what goes on inside similar establishments here in Taiwan 台灣 or watch this obscure, dimly-lit video advertisement for the club.
Founded in 1999, Yǒngchūn Elementary School 永春國民小學 is an unusual example of Islamic-influenced architecture in Taichung 台中, Taiwan 台灣. No rules or conventions must be followed here; all cultures are subject to creative reinterpretation in modern construction projects, but it is far more common for Taiwanese to pillage European, American, or surrounding East Asian sources for ideas. In this case I am sure it is no accident that the Taichung Mosque 台中清真寺 is just up the street—but it is, if I am not mistaken, just a regular school, albeit a fantastical one with princes and princesses!
For more photos and information (in Chinese, of course) nothing could be more appropriate than this blog, but if you’re feeling brave you can also wade through the insanity of the school’s official web site.
Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場 is another example of neglected Japanese colonial era architecture in Taiwan 台灣. Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the village of Fenyuan 芬園, located on the eastern edge of Changhua 彰化 back when it was part of Taichū Prefecture 臺中州. It survived the war and remained in use until 1994 when a newer town hall was built down the street. Art Deco flourishes and the rust-colored emblem over the entrance give Fenyuan’s old town hall a distinctive look. Nowadays it is derelict—but it seems likely that it will be restored and opened to the public some day.
Cǎoxiédūn Public Parkade 草鞋墩公有立體停車場 is an intimidating structure looming over one of the main commercial shopping streets in Caotun 草屯, Taiwan 台灣. I was there in search of an abandoned theater but was immediately impressed with the strikingly brutalist design of this multi-storey car park. It is merely a place to park so there’s little more to say, though it would seem that it was recently derelict. Probably the only other tidbit of information worth conveying is that “Caoxiedun” refers to the original name of the town. You can be sure the first settlers never imagined this monument to honest architecture standing in their newly sown fields.
Near the end of my first summer in Taiwan 台灣 I visited Bādǒuzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of Zhongzheng District 中正區, Keelung 基隆. I went there on impulse, not knowing what to expect, just to see what was out there. Google Maps and Taiwan’s excellent public transit system make random explorations like this almost effortless: pick a point of interest and follow the directions—the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map. This post features a selection of retouched photos from this expedition alongside the sort of explanatory text I wouldn’t have been able to write back in 2013. Fair warning for arachnophobes: this post contains several gratuitous photos of giant spiders and other creepy crawlies!
Recently I have gotten somewhat more serious about documenting ghost buildings, the faint traces of structures that once were. I found this particular example on Rén’ài Street 仁愛街 not far from the Hsinchu State Office 新竹州廳 (sometimes called the Hsinchu Municipal Government Hall) in Hsinchu City 新竹市. Google Street View reveals that this tiny space has been used for parking since at least 2009—but at some point someone must have made a life here in the spaces between.
This rusty iron flower blooms on the doorframe of an abandoned building at the edge of an unusually dilapidated community hidden in the streets opposite Jiànguó Holiday Flower Market 建國假日花市 and just behind Shin Yi Market 信義市場 in Da'an District 大安區, Taipei 台北. I never would have found the place had Taiwan Reporter not pointed it out to me; it isn’t visible from any major road and one would assume there were nothing more than boring residential high-rises back there. Much to my surprise there’s what appears to be a Qing dynasty era temple in the midst of a labyrinth of crooked laneways and old homes. I hope to write it up in a future post—but in the meantime, trust in rust.
I went out riding the other night, restless with insomnia and hungry for adventure. On impulse I crossed into Neihu District 內湖區 to investigate reports of an abandoned wedding chapel formally known as Grace Hill 麗庭莊園 (pinyin: Lìtíng Zhuāngyuán). In the depths of the witching hour I arrived to find an entire complex of buildings cast in shadows. Mosquitos stirred from the foul ponds on the property and pricked my flesh as I surveyed this nocturnal landscape.