No matter how high you build a building in Taiwan

you can always put a little tin storage shed on top.

And then cover it in toilet tiles, put the aircon units on the outside, and let it turn a sort of dirty grey colour from all the acid rain.

The world has absolutely NOTHING good to learn from Taiwanese architects. There should be some sort of tribunal in the UN where we can send these guys for crimes against aesthetics.

I think it’s the interiors that are important in Taiwan. There really are some lovely spaces I’ve seen.
(Not people’s homes, because those are either tacky and adorned with western pseudo art when they’re rich, or flourescently lit, tiled, and functional, when they’re middle-class.)

However, some establishments are absolutely lovely–inside. Restaurants, galleries, etc.
I keep looking at this wonderful old house off ShiTa Road and wondering whether it’d be worth it to fix it up. It looks like it’ll need to be completely restructured, though, and would probably cost less if they just raze it and toss up a five floor tiled bldg like the ones Non Teacher described.

Actually, in all my years here, I don’t think that architectural aesthetics are highly lauded, rather, functionality… unless it tips over in an earthquake.

This is an interesting question. I’ve often wondered why the exterior design of buildings here mattered so little to people. One aspect of this is that people don’t look out windows here. Our company just moved into a brand new building in the Xinyi District, with a great view out of picture windows of the mountains, but the first thing people do when they come in in the morning is pull down the blinds and close them, even when there’s clouds and no sunlight. Go to a place that has nice views, and you’ll find that all of the windows facing it are filled with boxes, mattresses, boarded up, etc. I live on Da-An Park and we have a great view, but I’m the only one in the apartment to have left my windows unblocked.

If you look at traditional Chinese houses, they are always facing inward, with the doors and windows, if any, facing the courtyard, and very little facing outwards, usually just a wall. I think this insular way of building still has an effect on the way Chinese people live in buildings today, western-style or otherwise. People just don’t care how things appear from the outside, it’s like a big secret. I’ve seen very nice interiors in places that look like dumps from the outside.

Hey Poagao, that’s an interesting post and your correct in your observation about traditional houses.

A lot of people have the theory that Taiwan’s architecture is bad because the government until recently was only using Taiwan as a temporary base, but I’ve always thought there must be more to it than that, and your note about traditional housing bears that out.

Which leaves the question – why ARE local buildings so lacking in aesthetic charm?

Or should we say SOME buildings? Because there are some nice ones going up that don’t sport a single bathroom tile these days.

this is something that’s got me thinking for a while.

I wonder is it possible they could have built the buildings any uglier if they wanted? What’s inside is mine and what’s outside is not so who cares right?

Anyway someone told me that all the houses are square block like structures because a curve in the house would block the spirits from getting out of the house. Perhaps this is why you see even wealthy peoples newly constructed houses in the countryside that could double as the local prison at home. There may be ‘some’ truth in this although personally I believe it involves building with maximum use of space with the cheapest possible materials.

The last poster has some interesting observations about not looking out windows. Being the only weigouren at work I’m also conspicous in being the only one who emerges at lunch time and likes to go out for lunch, especially on a beautiful sunny day. I go to the local park and sit down for a few minutes. But the park has these seats that only stretch half way up your back leading to the old its uncomfortable in ten minute trick that McD’s employs. You just can’t sit on them for that long,I don’t know whether this results from design or from saving on materials (1yr old park).

Chinese people in the main don’t like to enjoy the natural world like we do. They often feel it’s something to be protected from. Witness the ridiculous situation when it drizzles a bit and there is panic if nobody has an umbrella. I’ve heard of acid rain but come on! I had my workmates stuck in a restaurant for 2 hours at lunchtime once until someone could ‘rescue’ them with umbrellas from a mediocre downpour (this is a true story).

Come on guys…
Why do the Chinese never bother to wash the outside of a pot? Because you only cook on the inside!

Taipei 101 (Taipei Financial Centre) coming to a city near you.

I’ve seen most Taipei architecture – such as it is – described as ugly in books put out in the 1920s and even earlier, so this isn’t a recent phenomenon.

But of all the buildings here, surely one of the most awful-looking is America’s own AIT.

Funny thing is that apartments/buildings in Tel Aviv look just like ones in Taipei. But then again, the large cities in South America have the same “lack of inspiration” design.

Maybe “developing countries” don’t appreciate public display of asthetic yet. Maybe we are over-decadent.

What I really think is a waste when they design buildings with “gimmicky” look. All those buildings in Pudong have stupid adornments on top (with Jinmao as the only exception). I hate to admit it, but the Japanese minimalistic approach to design is probably the best hope for modern Asian architecture (until there’s more I.M. Pei’s around).

I have to agree that Taiwanese houses are incredibly ugly.

At first I also thought that it was an inside nice/outside who cares? thing but having been inside more Taiwanese houses I’m not bery impressed either. Most of them are not exactly comfortable. Two thingsI can’t understand:

  1. Why is everywhere so cold in winter? People sit inside (houses, restaurants, cafes) with their jackets on freezing, with the doors open and/or aircon on so as to avoid it getting ‘stuffy’ (actually I think this stuffiness is jsut the feeling ofa bit of warmth).

  2. Noone seems to like the sun and natural light. Blinds are down and windows are small. When at my old flat, they started bulding a 12 storey building 5M from my4th floor window, the landlord said it was great because it would block out the sun. No surprise I moved out.

I don’t think it’s a ‘Chinese’ thing. Hong Kong at least has some nice architecture, but maybe that’s because most of those buldings were designed by British firms. Anyone lived long enough in HK, Singapore (hey Singapore and KL have some good architecture) or the Mainland to compare?

Seeing as I reallylove Taipei, it’s such a pity that somethign as important (tome at least) as architecture is such a mess.

Oh yeah, how about the new core pacific thingy? - nice design, but they totally screwed upon traffic flows inside ruining the whole experience and the aircon is headache-inducing. I generallylove big malls,but Taipei’s first realoneleaves me not wantingto go back.


Hey Bri - you want cold - go to Shanghai in winter - I have been in Restaurants there, where it was about 10 deg C - and all the staff in dept stores wearing ski clothes. You can get really cold because there is nowhere warm till you get home.

I’ve also noticed that there isn’t a lot of difference between the style of buildings in Taiwan. I am guessing this is because of Feng Shui rules and beliefs. We’ve noticed in the past that buildings with bad Feng Shui end up closing or having other problems. For example, The Living Mall, Far East Dept. store in Hsiman Ding and others. Could it be people are afraid of being more creative? Could be, look at all the controversy over the China Bank building in Hong Kong…

Yeah but then you get great Feng Shui things in HK like that building (is it in Aberdeen or Stanley) with the huge circular hole in it to let the ‘sha’ pass through. Even something like the KMT headquarters in Taipei, while not exactly beautiful is a little bit more interesting because of it’s feng shui design.


Appreciation of a natural scene is not, surprising, a “natural” response, but a culturally learned one. Rousseau is often credited with creating the modern western cult of nature worship. The enviromental and hippy movements of the 60’s gave it renewed vigor an legitimacy for us younger folk.

Many societies rightly look upon nature as a raw, gigantic force ready to devour them at any point. The Taiwanese yearly experience earthquakes, typhoons, floods. Until recently these forced were largely not understood. Even now they are largely uncontrollable.

Romantic feelings towards the mountains will probably always be tempered here by the thought that they might at any second come sliding down on the building you are looking out of. Better to keep the curtains closed so you can’t see what’s coming.

FYI: i know one of the principal engineers of this building… he’s Japanese, not Taiwanese…

Originally posted by wsmith: [url=]Taipei 101 (Taipei Financial Centre)[/url] coming to a city near you.

Been living in KL and since it’s still developing there are lot’s of new high-rise buildings popping up, most of them which do look quite nice though somewhat don’t fit into what you imagine when you think of Asia. Nevertheless I liked the modern architecture there but if you look at some new housing estates (mainly out of the city area) they look more or less exactly as the old ones, all in the same boring and “crowded” style, you can hear your neighbour pee and the backlane serves as a rubbish dumb.
Taipei (just arrived here) reminds me a bit of Bangkok, a kind of messy in terms of houses and streets. Too much concrete and lot’s of old buildings, perhaps the reason why it doesn’t look so nice, the style 10 to 20 years ago just doesn’t suit todays taste anymore.

Who owns the outside of the building? In most cases, no one outright. So who’s gonna foot the bill for making it look nice?

I’d love to start a collection of those cardstock paper architect models that they alway put up in the realty offices for buildings waiting to be built. Little plastic cars and people locked into some beautiful scene that could never be Taipei. Even more interesting would be comparing these models with the actual outcome.

The city’s “look” is disgusting and needs to be urgently addressed by someone other than the dolt whose absurd idea it was to put up a cross section of a zebra at the Tun-Hwa/Civil Blvd. intersection.
And why all the green overpasses? It only makes things worse.

Incidentally, a friend of mine in the civil construction business told me that he was commissioned to assist in designing the look of both JenAi and TunHwa. Why only these two roads? Well, the domestic airport on the north tip of Tun Hwa used to be the international airport as well. When foreign dignitaries arrived, they’d be cavalcaded down tunhwa over to jenai, to the presidential palace, then whisked back the same way. “My. . .What a beautiful city you’ve got here. . . .”

Your last sentence sounds exactly like KL (in terms of landscaping / cleanness) …

About Mucha Man’s comment of Nature Appreciation
being modern.

What about the Celt’s, the Inca’s and the ancient Egyptians who built beautiful monuments to worship the sun and the nature God’s around them.
How about the aborigines of Australia who believe
they were merely another animal as a brother to the kangaroo etc. and had no concept of owning land for 50,000 years.
How about the neolithic peoples of Europe who drew those amazing lifelike pictures in the Altimira caves 50,000-100,000 years ago.

I know it was religious more than aesthethic but I believe these people really did connect with nature. If you visit some of these sights you can get the feeling much better.

Even the ancient Chinese had a clear aesthetic appreciation , you can go to the National Palace Museum anytime and check out the beautiful landscape paintings from the last thousand years.
Recently my colleagues taught me Li Bei’s poem about looking at the moonlight reflected from the ice and thinking of home, a thousand years before wordsworth and his Daffodils.

As another poster commented the most obvious reason is population pressure and speed of development. It’s hard to think of the importance of your environment when you’ve got no social security, an unstable political and economic environment and an extended family to be responsible for.