Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Xīméndīng 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhōngwài Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yángyáng Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan 台灣 it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.
Fùshuǐ Village 富水里 is located on a small parcel of land at the southern edge of Zhongzheng District 中正區, Taipei 台北, just to the west of Gōnggǔan Station 公館站. Technically the village contains the now-abandoned Jiahe New Village 嘉禾新村, a military dependents’ village previously profiled on this blog, but most common uses of the name refer to the illegal settlement running along Yǒngchūn Street 永春街, just inside the riverside wall. This settlement of around a hundred homes, like nearby Treasure Hill 寶藏巖, was supposed to be destroyed around the turn of the millennium, but plans have gone awry, and its fate remains unclear.
Jiahe New Village 嘉禾新村 is one of more than 800 military dependents’ villages (Chinese: juàncūn 眷村) built in Taiwan 台灣 in the late 1940s and 1950s to provide provisional housing for KMT soldiers and their families fleeing from the Chinese Civil War. Around two million people crossed the Taiwan Strait from China 中国 from 1945 to 1949, bolstering an existing population of approximately seven million. More than 600,000 of these Chinese immigrants ended up in military villages like this one in Zhongzheng District 中正區, Taipei 台北, which was forcibly abandoned only a couple of years ago as part of a wave of urban renewal projects sweeping the nation.
This bizarre installation is one of the more iconic and well-known works of public art in Taipei 台北. Created by artists Hé Cǎiróu 何采柔 and Guō Wéntài 郭文泰 in 2009, it is entitled The World in Aves’ Eyes 愛維思看世界 (alternately Birdman 鳥人 or Daydreams 夢遊) and can be found somewhere in the labyrinthine passageways beneath Taipei Railway Station 臺北火車站. Apart from the obvious, the immature, androgynous figure holds a pencil in its right hand (never to write a word), water continuously seeps from its neck, and its feet show the signs of a mild case of pigeon toe, a condition that should be familiar to anyone who has seen young Taiwanese posing for photographs. Here is the original creative statement that accompanies the piece:
My ability to translate Chinese remains limited, particularly when it comes to the sort of conceptual language employed above, but I’ll do my best to provide the gist. From what I can tell this piece is about the confusion and innocence of youth, of an entity in no hurry to grow up and face the challenges of the adult world. The grotesque bird’s head, disproportionate to the slender, prepubescent body, is meant to represent an exaggerated sense of alienation. There’s more—but I’ll leave it at that for now. You can find out more about this work on Facebook. Stay weird, Taiwan!
Futai Street Mansion 撫臺街洋樓 is a Japanese colonial era commercial building dating back to 1910. Located immediately to the south of Běimén 北門, recently the site of a major urban renewal project, it has been witness to more than a century of history here in the administrative heart of Taiwan 台灣. For more information I recommend reading this great article in Taiwan Today, this Taipei Times feature, and this post by Aris Teon. The mansion also has an official Facebook page if you’re interested in whatever events they might be hosting.
I did not plan much about my first trip to Taipei 台北 in March 2013. It was only a brief stopover on my way back from Malaysia to Vancouver so it didn’t really matter to me what I did (as long as it wasn’t super expensive). I stayed for about five days and spent most of my time wandering around aimlessly, observing various features of the urban landscape with untarnished eyes. Even the most mundane scenes aroused some interest in me. For whatever reason the dim lighting, jury-rigged plumbing, and faint hint of decay surrounding this parking garage entrance just south of Taipei Main Station presented a scene I felt some need to preserve.
One of the more peculiar ruins I’ve seen in Taiwan 台灣 was a building immediately across from the Control Yuan 監察院, one of the five branches of government, on Zhōngxiào West Road 忠孝西路. It was inaugurated as the second home of the Taipei City Council 台北市議會 in 1964 after moving from nearby Zhongshan Hall 中山堂. In 1990 the city council relocated to its present base in Xinyi District 信義區 and the building was converted into a police station before being completely abandoned in 2007. Despite this the building continued to be known as the Second Taipei City Council Building 第二台北市議會大廈.
One of the more peculiar events taking place this Lunar New Year is the destruction of an ugly extension of the Zhōngxiào Bridge 忠孝橋 leading east into Zhongzheng District 中正區. Built in 1982, this elevated road curves around mere meters from Běimén 北門 (officially: Taipei Fǔchéng Běimén 台北府城北門), the most authentic of the city’s remaining gates1 and the centerpiece of a huge urban renewal project.
The mayor has allotted eight days for the destruction of this eyesore—and judging by the frenzy of activity I witnessed while riding by one afternoon they are well under way. I wasn’t the only one stopping to take photos either; there were dozens of people scattered all along the construction zone snapping photos of the project.
Much more could be said about this gate, of course, but I just wanted to share some photos of what little I saw of this moment in time.
One of the great things about the riverside bikeway in Taipei 台北 is that it functions rather well for commuting from one part of the city to another. When I was living near Jingmei I regularly cycled downriver to the many cafes near Táidà 台大. Nowadays I am staying in Wanhua District 萬華區 and have gotten into the same habit—though I am now cycling upriver to the same bunch of cafes. This afternoon, after seeing clear skies on the Central Weather Bureau’s radar, I cut through a break in the riverside flood wall to the parklands beyond. Maybe about 20 minutes later I arrived at Gongguan and, immediately prior to exiting the system, snapped this quick photograph of the distinctive Yǒngfú Bridge 永福橋 that crosses over from the southern tip of Zhongzheng District 中正區 into Yonghe 永和.
I was exploring the streets to the west of Taipei Botanical Garden 台北植物園 in Zhongzheng District 中正區 the other day when I noticed this curious scene at the end of an alleyway. Someone has obviously taken it upon themselves to spruce up this otherwise ugly concrete building with some salvaged wood and a rusty old car door, now bolted in place. The chopper is an unusual sight as well—you don’t see so many of those around, particularly not without a seat.