Travel Guide: Taiwan

by | 22. Feb 2018




The cities of Taiwan impress; not because of their beauty, but because of their vitality. The architectural qualities do not reveal themselves at first glance, though – you have to know where to look.

Like Taiwan as a whole, the country’s architecture is seeking to balance a Western economic system against Eastern culture and mentality, rational modernity against traditional iconography.

Taiwanese architecture as such has only existed for about 70 years. Prior to 1945, under the Japanese colonial rule, it was strictly a privilege of Japanese citizens to design buildings in Taiwan. The Japanese rulers left a cluster of government buildings in Taiwan still in use today and unparalleled even in the mother country: They form the largest single product of the Japanese interpretation of Western architecture in the world.

It is not without irony, that an Eastern power brought Western architecture to Taiwan, but the buildings designed by Ide, Nagano, Kondo, Moriyama and others still bear witness not only the political ambitions of the colonial power but also its architectural and urban design objectives. This guide takes the import of Western architecture to Taiwan by the Japanese as its starting point.

The architectural community in Taiwan has so far produced only one world-renowned starchitect: C. Y. Lee, whose designs for an ‘independent architecture’ that processes Chinese and Buddhist symbols and motifs in a very literal manner and translates them into contemporary buildings. Lee brought international attention of the architectural world to Taiwan. This also applies to his most prominent work, the famous Taipei 101 Tower, which today in the popular perception has become the architectural icon not only the capital but the whole country.


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World Games Stadium. Image © Michalle/CC

World Games Stadium
Toyo Ito, 2009
200, Jhonghai Rd., Zuoying Dist., Kaohsiung

The 8th World Games, an international sports event for non-Olympic sports was held in Taiwan in 2009 In Kaohsiung the largest solar-powered stadium in the world was built for this occasion. Designed by Toyo Ito  of Japan it can exclusively be run on solar power. The whole roof, 14,000 m2 in size, is covered with more than 8,000 solar panels that generate electric power for the 3,300 lights and the giant screens. Over a year the roof can produce 1.14 Gigawatt-hours, enough for 80% of the power needs of the adjacent buildings. Excess energy is sold off because the stadium does not have a major battery. The venue holds 55,000 spectators and cost 115 million euros to build. It is shaped like an open ring and was compared to a river or snake. It is surrounded by a sports park on all sides, into which the stadium reaches out.

The introverted nature of most stadiums in the world has been overcome here. Coming from the inner city or the nearby high-speed railway station visitors and fans approach the stadium via a wide, palm-tree lined boulevard. The rising entrance plaza is flanked on one side by the box offices, a restaurant and a little sports museum. The concourses and tiers rest on a sculptural exposed concrete structure. The roof is a network of cantilevering, white steel tubes. Most seats offer great views of the action on the field as well as of the nearby mountain range, the downtown skyline and the vegetation of the surrounding park.


Ching Fu Headquarters. Image © maos/CC

Ching Fu Headquarters
Richard Rogers, 2007
72 Lane, Santzu Chi Chin District, Kaohsiung

The Ching Fu Corporation is Taiwan’s largest shipping company. Its offices that used to be spread around all over the city were consolidated in the new headquarters building, of which Richard Rogers won the architectural design competition in 2005. The site is separated from the waterfront only by a boardwalk. In order to give as many offices as possible a nice view of the harbor, the rectangular office building was placed parallel to the water. The area is a growing science and research park. The design is based on a square 8.5 m grid. The building is three bays wide and nine bays long with cores at either end. The lower two floors contain the foyer, a gallery and an auditorium with 100 seats. The upper floors contain offices. Floors 8 to 10 are set back, creating room for a large rooftop terrace. It is shaded with louvers. There also is viewing platform in the South that is accessible by glass elevators and an elegant circular stair case. The box-like, cantilevering offices seam to hover in front of the facade. Each box has a little walk-on roof. Because of the hot summers in Kaohsiung the roof has shading louvers that can be tilted according to the direction of the sun. Horizontal lamellas in front of the offices protect the offices from sun, heat and glare. The lamellas on the southwest facade bring natural daylight into the depth of the building. The elevators and stair cases are clad in glass, so that its users can enjoy the views. The exposed columns and pipes are painted in bright primary colors such as red, blue and yellow. The interiors were designed by Rich Honor from Taipei.


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President’s Office. Image © yuki_september/CC

President’s Office
Uheiji Nagano, 1919
122 Chongqing South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei

The president’s office in the Zhongzheng Government area is one of the best known buildings from the era of Japanese Colonial rule in Taiwan. Designed by Uheiji Nagano from Japan, the red brick building originally served as the headquarters of the Japanese Governors of Taiwan. It covers a whole block along Chongqing South Road and Bo’ai Road and resembles a double-square in plan.

Eleven years after the beginning of the Japanese rule over Taiwan in 1895 an architectural design competition was held for the design of the building. Nagano’s design had won in the second round. It happily combines elements of western Renaissance architecture, Baroque and Neo-Classicism. Upon request of the imperial Government in Tokyo the original design was increased in and made more defensive. The main façade is 130 meter long and faces east along Ketagalan Boulevard. Nagano designed most of his buildings – and the president’s office is no exception – facing east, symbolically towards the rising sun. The drive-up at the main entrance was designed for left-hand side traffic, as is common in Japan. A neo-baroque dome greets the arriving guests. It was rebuilt in a simplified manner.

The western entrance leads to a great stair hall clad in marble and adorned with ionic as well as Corinthian columns. The six-story building contains the President’s office along long hallways. They are arranged around two inner courtyards. The central tower with a height of 60 meters was the tallest structure in Taipei for a long time. In WWII the Americans partially destroyed the building and it was restored by Chen Yi. After the end of the civil war in China and the Japanese rule over Taiwan the building in 1947 the new government started the rebuilding with the help of private donations. Since 1949 the building served the military rulers and after the retreat of the KMT from China in 1950 as the seat of the President. In 1950 it was turned into the seat of the President of Taiwan. When the Chinese national government took over the building a platform for flag-ceremonies was added. Thousands of workers were involved in the reconstruction. In time for Chiang Kai-Shek’s 60th birthday the building was re-named “Chieh Shou Hall”(“Chieh Shou” means “Long live Chiang Kai-shek”). Since 2006 the name “Chieh Shou Hall”is no longer used.


Taipei 101. Image © K_HAN_K/CC

Taipei 101
C. Y. Lee, 2004
45, Shifu Rd, Xinyi-District, Taipei

The high-rise tower known as “Taipei 101” is probably the most famous building in Taiwan. Its status as the architectural symbol of the city and the nation as a whole is mainly due to its extreme height: With a height of 509 meters “Taipei 101” was the tallest building in the world for six years, before being dethroned in 2010 by the “Burj Khalifa”-Tower in Dubai. Its status as an icon of Taiwan also stems from its architectural design, however:  In a typical postmodern-mannered style it combines elements of Chinese tradition with western modernism in an eclectic fashion.

It is the Opus Magnum of the architect C.Y. Lee, who designed almost all important high-rise buildings in Taiwan – and in a similarly collage-like symbolic language (see his two towers in Kaohsiung as a reference for example). The tower has 101 floors (hence its name) plus five underground levels. Taipei 101 wants to be regarded as a “symbol of the mixing of modern technology and Asian tradition”. Such super-tall building has to be able to withstand two contradictory demands in case of an earthquake or typhoon: In the case of an earthquake it should be rigid and in the case of a typhoon it should be as flexible as possible. A multi-storey shopping center at the foot of the tower contains hundreds of shops and restaurants.

The owner of the tower is the Taipei Financial Center Corporation (TFCC). Taipei 101 replaced the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur as the world’s tallest tower. It was the first tower in the world that is more than 500 m tall and the first super tower of the new millennium. The structure is a high-performance steel structure with 36 columns, eight of which are concrete filled “mega-columns”. Every eighth floor the columns in the center are connected to the columns on the periphery by means of heavy trusses. The tower rests on a foundation made of 380 columns that are drilled up to 80 deep into the ground. When an earthquake struck during the construction in 2002, two cranes fell and five workers were killed but the building did not destabilize. A steel pendulum, weighing 660 tons, at the top of the tower serves to dampen the mass. It is suspended between floors 88 and 92 and can swing and thus compensate the movements of the structure. The pendulum is six meters in diameter and consists of 41 heavy, circular steel plates. Further counter-weights are to be found even higher up in the tower. The curtain wall facade made of greenish glass was made of high-quality double-pane UV-protection glass from Germany.

The amount of floors is supposed to represent the beginning of the new millennium and the binary code of digital technology, the foundation if contemporary Taiwan’s wealth. The tower has eight times eight floors because the number eight is regarded as a symbol of good look in China. The repetitive segments should represent the growth of bamboo or a Chinese pagoda. Each of the four elevations is decorated with a coin-like metal object at the top and basis. Eight meter tall Ruyi-Ornaments symbolize clouds. At night the building is illuminated in yellow and becomes the lighthouse of the capital city. Between 6 and 10 pm every evening the tower is light up in a different color, representing the day of the week. East of the tower there is a Park, in which the shadow of the towers acts as a sun-dial. Double-decker express-elevators bring visitors to the two viewing platforms at the top in only 37 seconds.


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Tuntex Sky Tower. Image © abow huang /CC

Tuntex Sky Tower
(also T & C Tower
C. Y. Lee with HOK,1997
1 Zhi-Chiang 3rd Road, Kaohsiung

The Tuntex & Chien-Tai Tower is a high-rise tower with 85 floors in the Lingya-District of Kaohsiung. It has a height of 347 m, even 378 m with the antenna. This makes it the tallest tower in the city and until the completion of the Taipei 101-Tower the tallest in the country. It was designed by C.Y. Lee together with Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum from the USA. It has an unusually forked shape with two towers of 39 floors that seem to grow together into a single shaft in the upper part of the tower. The form is a play on the Chinese character “Kao” or “tall”, which is also the first syllabus in “Kaohsiung”. The owner of this tower that shapes the silhouette of Taiwan’s second biggest city is the Tuntex Group (and its subsidiary Chien-Tai). The lower floors are offices, but apartments, shops and a large hotel (floors 37 to 70) are also part of the program. A viewing platform on the 75thfloor offers breathtaking views over the whole city and its harbor. Express elevators carry visitors up to the top with a speed of 10 m/s.


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Luce Memorial Chapel. Image © Enix Xie/CC

Luce Memorial Chapel
Chen Chi-Kwan with I. M. Pei, 1963
181, Sec. 3, Taichung Port Road, Taichung

This Christian Chapel on the beautiful campus of the Tunghai University in Taichung was designed by the artist Chen Chi-Kwan together with I. M. Pei, the most famous Chinese-born architect of the 20thcentury. It is one the most impressive sacred spaces in Taiwan. The chapel is named after the American Rev. Henry Luce, a missionary who was active in China in the late 19thcentury and father of publisher Henry Luce Junior. The project was originally planned in 1954, but the groundbreaking had to be postponed until 1960. The chapel is situated on a 12,000 m2 site and has a hexagonal floor plan of 477 sm. The church bay offers 500 seats. It is a tent-like reinforced concrete structure in the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid and a height of 19 meters. It creates a visual center and point de vue amongst all other low campus buildings, giving the campus a center. The formwork for the concrete had to be manufactured on site. Rips carry the curved plains and become thicker towards the back, thus tectonically expressing their load bearing. The four roof planes are clad in diamond shaped golden-colored, glazed ceramic tiles. The cassettes inside are diamond-shaped as well. The wall- roof planes culminate in a steel cross. The skylight between the planes is covered with glass. Allowing natural daylight in from the top and washing the walls in light. Small “bow ties” keep them in place.


Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Image © llee_wu/CC

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Image © llee_wu/CC


Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Wang Ta-hung, 1972
400, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei

The Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hallis dedicated to the founding father of the Republic of China. The giant hall with its 30,000 m2 of space is used as a memorial hall for the revolution at the end of the Qing-Dynasty. Construction was started as early as 1964 by the government and is intended to reflect “the unique character, revolutionary career and Philosophy” of Sun Yat Sen. In 1965 Chiang Kai-shek himself laid down the foundation stone for the hall. The design by Wang Ta-hung was chosen one year earlier in an architectural design competition, had to be altered according to Chiang’s command, however. The management of the hall was handed over from the city Taipei to the Education ministry in 1986. The hall is situated in the great Chung-shan Park with different gardens and historic walls. Originally relics were the most important items on display, but today the large theater hall and gallery are used for various cultural events, including the most famous Film festival in Taiwan. An Audio-Visual Centre, Lecture Halls and a library with 300,000 books are also part of the program. Shortly after the construction of the hall, Chiang Kai-shek died. His funeral celebration took place in the hall. Hundreds of Thousands of people came to see the body. There is a large sculpture of Sun Yat-sen in the main hall. Every hour there is a change of guards in front of the hall.


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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Image © Miguel Vicente Martínez Juan/CC

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Yang Cho-Cheng, 1980
21, Zhongshan South Road, Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei

The memorial hall is dedicated to Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of the republic of China. It is situated in the middle of a large park on “Liberty Square”, framed by the National Theater and the National concert hall. Immediately after the death of Chiang in 1975 an architectural design competition was held. Yang Cho-cheng’s “Chinese” design won, being related to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing. Four years later the hall was inaugurated in time for the fifth anniversary of the death of Chiang. The main building is situated at the Eastern end of the memorial park. Three large, decorative gates mark the western end of Chung Shan South Road, Hsin Yi Road and Ai Kuo East Road. A landscaped Boulevard connects the Great Hall with a Plaza, that is called “Liberty Square” since 2007.

The white hall carries an octagonal blue tile roof that is 76 m tall. Together with the red flowers in the park the national colors of the Taiwanese flag are represented this way. The octagonal floor plan refers to the number 8, a lucky number in Chinese culture. Two grand stair cases with 89 steps each (one for each year that Chiang lived) lead to the main entrance and its 16 m tall doors. At the center of the hall there is a great bronze depicting Chiang. The ground floor contains a library and museum. When in 2007 Chen Shui-bian became the first non-KMT President in Taiwan, he renamed the hall into “National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” and the plaza in front “Liberty Square”. With the latest change in government the name change was reversed.


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Visitor Center, Sun Moon Lake. Image © Yen-Chi Chen/CC

Visitor Center, Sun Moon Lake
Norihiko Dan, 2011
163, Jhongshan Road, Yuchih Township, Nantou County

Japanese architect Norihiko Dan calls his design for the Visitor center on Sun Moon Lake a “landform for the dialogue between man and nature”. Sun Moon-Lake is one of the most important tourist attractions in Taiwan. Dan had won the international architectural design competition in 2003. His grey, exposed concrete building acts like a piece of “land art”, because with it ramps and ramped roofs it seems to grow out of the site creating an organic landscape. All roofs are green and can be walked upon. The center consists of two boomerang-shaped bars, both of which leave a large hole in the center, through which visitors can see the lake and the mountains in the distance. The building cleverly frames the view. All concrete surfaces have a pattern from the rough wooden formwork, giving them a more lively appearance. The design avoids the creation of a less attractive landside. The spatial experience to, through and over the buildings follows a “gradual, continuous transformation” that raises curiosity and motivates movement. Reflective pools mirror the building effectively and seem to visually merge with the nearby lake.


R9 Subway Station Central Park. Image © hiroshiken/ CC

R9 Subway Station Central Park
Richard Rogers, 2007
Zhong Shan 2nd Road at Zhong Yang Park, Kaohsiung

The “Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation (KRTC)” was founded in 1999 and began with the construction of the first two subway lines in Kaohsiung immediately. The red line, running north-south was inaugurated in 2008, while the orange line is under construction still. The “R9” station is the 9thstation along the red line at the central park. Designed by Richard Rogers it aims to extend the landscaping of the Park into the station. A tilted green plane brings passengers down to a concourse level, eleven meters below ground. The roof allows daylight into the entrance and creates a highly visible sign in the park. Two escalators and two stairs lead down, adorned with a water cascade. The aluminum roof protects concourse against sun and rain. It is curved and pre-stressed and shaped like a concave trapezoids, 50 x 50 m in size. It is perforated with frosted glass skylights. The manufacturing used ship-building techniques. The 13 segments were prefabricated in a shipyard, welded together on site and then put in place with the help of four cranes. The roof weighs 220 tons and rests on only four yellow tree-like columns. When illuminated from below at night the shiny roof seems to hover. On the other side of Chung-Shan Road there are two secondary exits. The subway station below is clad in prefab-mosaic panels with ceilings made of perforated Aluminum sheet metal.


921-Earthquake Museum. Image © 我是鬼/CC

921-Earthquake Museum
Jay W. Chiu und Chuang Hsueh-neng, 2004
46, Zhongzheng Road., Kengkou Vil., Wufeng Dist. Taichung

The design for the 921-Earthquake museum visualizes the fault lines below the ground. The earthquake got its name from the fact that it happened on the morning of September 21 (2001). The building uses the ruins of the Kwangfu middle school that was destroyed during the earthquake. The museum consists of five parts: The Chelungpu Fault Gallery is next to the former running track of the school, was totally distorted during the quake. The whole setting is a course for the education about earthquakes and possibilities of building safer structures. Some damaged classrooms were maintained as well. There are pictures of the open fault lines on display. The linear building symbolizes the stitches, with which the wounds of the earth could be healed. The museum building does not have any columns and beams but rather 82 prefabricated, pre-stressed concrete steles each 12 m high and 2.4 m in width. The building is shaped like an arch. In the adjacent Earthquake Engineering Hall earthquake-proof construction is explained. It can be divided into a gallery and a seminar room. The Image Gallery, originally the break room of the school, shows photos and contains three auditoria: The True Feeling Theater, a 3D Theater and the Earthquake Experience Theater. The Disaster Prevention Hall deals with preventive measures, preparation and education about quakes. In the Reconstruction Records Hall the rebuilding efforts are documented, especially the architecturally ambitious school reconstruction effort. This hall is a continuation of the former running track of the school, symbolizing progress.


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Beitou Library. Image ©

Beitou Library
Kuo Ying-chao / Bio Architecture Formosana, 2006
251, Guangming Road, Beitou, Taipei

Taiwan’s “greenest” building stands right next to Beitou Park in Taipei: The Beitou Library is the first building to ever earn the Diamond Rating, the highest possible rating in the EEWH-system of certification for sustainable architecture. The walls are made of oiled American wood and are reminiscent of the Japanese colonial architecture, that popularized wooden architecture in Taiwan in general and the Beitou-District in particular. The shape and the large windows clearly mark it as a contemporary building however. The great windows let daylight deep into the building and allow for natural ventilation. The roof is partially covered with Photovoltaic-panels and partially a green roof. The layer of soil is 20 cm deep and is used for thermal insulation in winter while also helping to keep the building cool in summer. The vegetation was chosen for low maintenance and no need for irrigation. The rainwater is captured and used in the flushing for the WCs. The library is situated right next to a subway stop is easily accessible without a car. The architects were able to get an exemption for the mandatory provision of parking lots.


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Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image © J Q/CC

Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Er-Pan Kao, 1983
181 Zhong Shan North Road, Section 3, Taipei

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) was erected on a former site of the American army in Taipei in 1983. It was the first museum of fine arts in Taiwan. The design by Er-Pan Kao is a Taiwanese interpretation of the Japanese Metabolism Movement. The mission of the museum is to collect and preserve Taiwanese art and to promote an international artistic exchange. The museum is arranged around several inner courtyards and consists of three-storey stacked cantilevering white bar-shaped galleries with suspended walkways. All galleries are shaped like rectangular tubes. In plan the shape is reminiscent of the Chinese character for “well” or “source”. The shape is thus supposed to evoke the creative source of art. A large window allows for views of the Yuan Shan (hill) and Zhong Shan Art Park. Zhong Shan North Road, the bypasses the futuristic museum, is part of the protocol route that state visitors take. At the end of the hallways there are all-glass facades that let daylight into the sparkling white building. In the central inner courtyard the movement of the sun creates a fascinating play of light and shadow.


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Church The Light of Christ’s Salvation. Image © Fang-Yi LIN/CC

Church The Light of Christ’s Salvation
LIAO Weili/Ambi Studio, 2009
Jin Hua Road, Taichung

This modern, urban church occupies a standard corner lot in Taichung and is separated into three parallel bays: One for the congregation and one for the vertical circulation with a glass atrium in the middel connected both wings with seven different bridges. At street level in the main wing there is a coffee shop. But stepping inside the foyer of the church the first thing people see is a concrete wall with water running over its textured surface into a koi-pond at the lower level. The double-height congregation space has a vaulted roof, whose Zink-cladding makes it stick out in the roofscape of the neighborhood and above the exposed concrete elevation below. It is designed to evoke the notion of Noah’s arch. All details (for the stairs, the furniture and the outdoor spaces etc.) are carefully and masterfully designed. Glass brick in the floor bring daylight into the community spaces in the basement. Subtly placed little openings in the facades and even the stair towers bring daylight into the rooms.


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Extension of Taoyuan Airport Terminal 1.

Extension of Airport Terminal 1
Norihiko Dan, 2012
Taoyuan Airport

Terminal 1 at Taoyuan Airport is getting refurbished and massively extended. The existing terminal will be extended in the East and West with large new wings und the floor are expanded by 13.000 sm. The capacity will increase from 12 to 15 million air travelers per year. The new wings will be naturally lit in daytime and artfully illuminated at night. The main hall will get extended and a new passport control will be built. The terminal will get direct access to the new subway station connecting the airport and Taipei. Architect Norihiko Dan from Japan had won an architectural design competition for the extension in 2004. Construction has to take place while the terminal is in full use. The architectural design of the hall is reminiscent of Eero Saarinen’s famous design for Dulles Airport outside Washington DC.


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National Theater and  National Concert Hall.

National Theater and  National Concert Hall (NTCH)
Yang Cho-cheng, 1987
10048 Chung-Shan South Road, Taipei

These two cultural centers in the heart of the Zhongzheng Distrcit of Taipei are the most famous performance venues in Taiwan. They frame the Liberty Square in the North and South in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. When Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, the Kuomintang decided to build the culture centre. It was designed by architect Yang Cho-cheng. Architecturally Yang’s design reflects the Chinese Palace architecture. Both halls can cater to at least two events simultaneously. Besides the great hall, the national theatre contains a smaller, more experimental theater and the concert hall features a secondary, more intimate auditorium.

The space between the buildings can be used for performances as well. The Dutch organ in the Concert hall was the largest anywhere in Asia when it was built. Part of the complex are galleries, a library, shops and restaurants. The editorial offices of the Performing Arts Review are also situated in the building. The theater can be used for Kabuki, Opera, Dance or Puppet theater and has an according flexibility.


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Kung Tung Technical Senior High School. Image © Pei-Che Cheng/CC

Kung Tung Technical Senior High School
Justus Dahinden, 1960
1 Fusing N. Road, Songshan District

Swiss architect Justus Dahinden designed the Kung Tung Technical Senior High school soon after establishing his firm in 1955. It is a project of the Christian-Catholic mission and was commissioned by the Swiss Bethlehem-Missionaries from the Immensee-Lake. The school campus is composed of four rectangular buildings that frame an inner courtyard. The main building on the left contains workshops, class rooms, dormitories, a chapel and a roof terrace. The secondary building contains a kitchen and dining hall as well as a library and the teacher’s and director’s offices. Opposite the main building there is another building with the rooms for physics and material science and further workshops. A low square cube contains the administration.

The school is designed to give a three year education for young people from this under-privileged part of the country to become a mechanic or carpenter. The architect has donated his design without any honorarium. One of the buildings was financed with German donations. Despite the professional classes, Chinese and Math are also taught.

The sharp-edged expose concrete facades have irregular patterns of cut-outs with Brise-Soleil-elements preventing them from overheating along the short sides. The chapel is adorned with colorful glass windows. The floors are accessed by means of outer, semi-enclosed hallways. Dahinden had studied the metabolist movement in Japan and made a career as an author and academic.


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Nung Chan (Water Moon) Monastery. Image © Jeffrey Cheng

Nung Chan (Water Moon) Monastery
Kris Yao/Artech, 2001
89, Ln. 65, Daye Rd. 

For the Nung Chan Monastery a “rich and meaningful modern-style Buddhist architecture” is used to describe a new temple culture in Taiwan. The Nung Chan Monastery was established in 1975 and is the cradle of the Dharma Drum Mountain, an international Buddhist foundation and situated in the Guandu plain facing the Keelung River. The beautiful setting in the hilly land in Jinshan is used for the Buddhist rituals. Kris Yao of Artech wanted to design a peaceful place with the image of reflection of the moon in water and the castle in the air. Forgoing color and ornament, the design aims for purity and simplicity. Wind, light and landscape are symbolically brought into the building. An existing building was allowed to maintain its character. The Grand Hall and meditation hall, a dining hall and the monk’s dormitories were added. The new building uses a similar architectural vocabulary as the existing one in order to create harmony between old and new. Courtyards connect the spaces. The rooms for the two Buddhist Masters are located in the existing structure. Master Sheng-yen, in his environmentalism campaign, insisted the buildings follow and adjust to the natural contour of the hills. He personally oversaw the process. Building 1 contains a Bus terminal, Visitor Center, Briefing room, theater, book store, Guanyin Hall (with a tranquility pond in the front and waterfall in the background). Building I consists of a Memorial Hall, art hall, exhibition room and the Grand Buddha Hall.


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China Steel Corporation Headquarters. Image © Jeffrey Cheng

China Steel Corporation Headquarters
Kris Yao/Artech, 2008
88 Chenggong 2nd Road, Qianzhen District, Kaohsiung 

The new tower of the China Steel Corp. Acts like a point de vue for the urban axis from the city of Kaohsiung towards the sea. The tower is situated in the new Commerce and Trade Park, the largest new district by the water. Clad in a glass curtain wall, it references the Chinese expression of “the circle embracing the square”. The building steps back, creating a green plaza in front of the building with a circular fountain with the tower in the middle. The tower consists of four blocks with a central core. All eight stacks are rotated by 12,5 degrees. The structure is expressed on the facades, giving them a distinct rhythm. The double facade allows for natural ventilation of the office tower.


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Performing Arts Centre. Image © OMA

Performing Arts Centre
OMA mit Artech, Projekt, 2013
Cheng De Road, Taipei

Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has won the 1stprize in the competition for the new Taipei Performing Arts Centre. The team of Dutch Starchitect Rem Koolhaas designed a theater for 1,500 people and two smaller auditoria with 800 seats each. The theater complex is a cube wit a facade made of corrugated glass and merged it with a smaller cube and a ball. The three theaters can be combined. The Performing Arts Center is deisigned to suit opera and theater alike. A publicly trajectory in the cube makes parts of the stage accessible for visitors. The main cube is raised in stilts in order to give room to a food market underneath it.

The designers wanted a “precise, efficient and economic solution that is urban and opens new unexpected possibilities for theater”. The tight inner-city lot called for a universal façade that wraps around the front, back and sides. In the South and North the theaters dominate the facades of the compact cube and along Cheng De Road there are four elevator towers. The spherical “playhouse” cantilevers in the direction of the nearby station and is intended to become the symbol of the building. Ticketed guests are gradually separated from the public by ascending to two “urban balconies”, before entering one of the three theaters.



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Grand Hotel. Image © hey-gem/CC

Grand Hotel
Yang Cho-Cheng, 1973
1, Chung Shan North Road, Taipei

The Grand Hotel in Taipei is amongst the buildings that shape the silhouette of the capital city. It towers over Yuan Hill in the Zhongshan-District. With its height of 87 meters it is the tallest building in the world in a “modern Chinese architectural style”. Until 1981 it also was the tallest building in Taipei. The client was the non-profit Duen-Mou-Foundation. The idea for the construction of the Grand Hotel was a political one: When Chiang Kai-shek came to Taiwan in 1949 there was not a single luxury hotel in town that could be used for state visitors.

That is why Chiang’s wife Soong May-ling suggested building the Grand Hotel on the Yuan-Hill, where the Japanese Shinto Shrine once stood. Chiang wanted a palace-like building in a traditional Chinese style. So architect Yang Cho-Cheng was commissioned because of his conservative design for a modern luxury hotel that included a swimming pool, tennis courts and a great lounge. Because of its size, site and architectural message, the hotel became an instant icon for Taipei. The façade is dominated by the massive, red columns that carry the distinctive golden, Chinese tile roof. The Hotel is lavishly adorned with works of art, wall panels, paintings and wood carvings with dragon-, lion- and plum-motives. Each of the eight guest floors is designed in the style of another Chinese Dynasty. The Hotel has 490 rooms. The south-facing rooms enjoy great views over the city.

In the President’s Suite guests can sit at Chiang Kai-shek’s original desk. This privilege costs almost 5,000 dollars per night. After the completion of the hotel, rumors arose about underground tunnels leading from the hotel to the nearby Shilin-Residence of the president and other government buildings. When a fire destroyed the roof of the hotel in 1995, it turned out during the reconstruction that these tunnels really existed but were intended as air raid shelters. The reconstruction of the roof took three years and during its course the decision was made to turn the dragon’s heads on the roof around in order to “prevent future fires”.


Lalu Hotel, Sun Moon Lake. Image © Pete/CC

Lalu Hotel, Sun Moon Lake
Kerry Hill with TIA Architects
142 Jungshing Road Yuchr Shiang Nantou

The Lalu Hotel is probably the most beautiful hotel in Taiwan and enjoys a priviledged site with a great view of Sun-Moon-Lake. It was designed by the Australian architect Kerry Hill, who runs his office in Singapore. Hill has designed resorts in Bali, Langkawi and Hawaii before. The Lalu Hotel is situated on a peninsula with lush vegetationat at Sun Moon Lake. Surrounded by hills, the lake provides for a romantic scenery at the foot of the central Taiwanese monutains range to the East.

The Lalu  Hotel is made of wood, stone, glass and steel. All rooms and suites are designed in a contemporary Asian style and enjoy views over the lake, the garden and a swimming poo. Therea also are fireplaces, whirlpools, stearm rooms and saunas and an Asian Spa to spoil the guests as well as a tennis and golf course and gym. The Lalu overlooks a panoramic view of Sun Moon Lake and is named after the indigenous Thao aboriginal settlement. The hotel was once the favorite summer getaway for President Chiang Kai Shek and dates back to 1901. Its renovations and additions by Kerry Hill Architects have resurrected the property to a new international high-end standard – a first for this part of the world.