What Remains of the Taipei Ruin Academy

Taipei Ruin Academy in 2015
Outside the Taipei Ruin Academy in 2015.

Since moving to Taipei 台北 slightly more than two years ago I have been intrigued by the works of Marco Casagrande, a Finnish architect and environmental artist whose Casagrande Laboratory has been involved in a number of projects scattered around Taiwan. Treasure Hill 寶藏巖 is both the first and most well-known project he has been involved in—but the Ruin Academy, which opened in 2010, also made some waves when it was new.

A tree growing outside of the abandoned Ruin Academy
A tree growing outside of the abandoned Ruin Academy.

This project converted an abandoned building in Zhōngzhèng District 中正區 into a multi-use research facility and urban garden with what was purportedly “best sauna in the Pacific” on the fifth floor. I would have liked to have seen it in action—but by the time I arrived on the scene this formerly abandoned building had been abandoned once more. In appreciation of the irony of this situation I am sharing a few photos from the Ruin Academy as it is today. They aren’t particularly interesting—but that’s partly the point. What was once a revolutionary work of urban architecture has been reabsorbed by the body of the city.

The former Urban Core Cafe & Bookstore
The former Urban Core cafe and bookstore.

The ground floor was once home to the Urban Core Cafe. This being a recent abandonment, you can still find several Chinese language blogs about what it was like in more prosperous times. In the original plan there is no mention of a cafe so I get the sense this came about after Casagrande moved on to other things. Opening a cafe in unusual buildings has become something of a cliché in Taiwan, to say the least.

Buzzers on the former Ruin Academy
Buzzers on the former Ruin Academy building.

I would have loved to have gained access to the interior of the building but there is simply no way. The back door is firmly locked and everything around front is boarded up. Anyone wishing to see what remains of the interior would have to use force—and this is something I avoid in my explorations.

Candy Bird’s art on the side of the old Ruin Academy
Candy Bird’s art on the side of the old Ruin Academy.
Disappearing into history
Disappearing into history in a drunken haze.

One thing I enjoyed seeing were the murals by Candy Bird, one of Taiwan’s foremost street artists. These whimsical touches to an otherwise boring and indistinct building made wandering over there at least somewhat gratifying. I was otherwise left to ponder the impermanence of all things, revolutionary works of urban architecture included. At least we still have Treasure Hill.