Architecture of Sun, Moon and Stars:
A Regional Perspective of Modernity in Taiwan 1661-2011
The modernity experienced in East Asia seems to have long been entangled with three conflicting and yet mutually affecting ideations, so-called enlightenment, identity and imagination. Metaphorically, they form a trilogy of architectural development--- of the sun, moon and stars, in building up the new world order in this region.
China as the dominant sun in East Asia started going drastically in decline in the second half of the 19th century, and at the same time Japan rose as a newly facilitated modern power in this region. China lost the war in 1895 to Japan and ceded Taiwan to the new power of the sun flag. Japan is commonly depicted as the last empire of the modern world, but it is in fact the only moon-empire reflecting the light mostly from the sun-like European enlightenment. Under the double shining of indirect enlightenment through China and Japan, Taipei peculiarly experienced its first modernization with the city-wall building in the late Ching dynasty during 1880-82 and soon ___________________________________________________________________________
Contact Arthur: Shih-wei Lo, Professor, Department of Architecture, Tungahi University
Postal address: Department of Architecture, Tunghai University, Taichung 407, Taiwan,. R.O.C.
Tel: 00886-4-2359 0263 ex 11, 69 Fax: 00886-4-2359 5581
later the city-wall removal in 1905 by Japanese colonial ruling.
Modernity experienced in East Asia gets in company tightly with wars: the Sino-Nippon War (1895, 1931-1945), the Nippon-Russia War (1905), the Civil War of China (1945-49), Korea War (1950), and Vietnam War (1965-75). The wars bring forth Diaspora---the displacement and the nostalgia of Japanese moving to China, Taiwan and Southeastern Asia, of Chinese (the revolutionist R.O.C. government) fleeing to Taiwan, and of Vietnamese to Hong Kong and Australia. During the Post-War period, the modernization in these areas tended to thrust themselves into the world division of labor and achieve prosperity as those advanced countries did beforehand. The identity issue thus tends to involve with that the mentality of the moon in homeland being regarded brighter always mixes with the fawning attitude of foreign moon (especially that of advanced countries) looking more round.
After the 1970s and 1980s when the self-conscious movements caring for the lived land drew popular attention, the East Asian region picks up its own momentum in re-imagineering the self. Olympic game hosted in Seoul (1988) and Pu-dung development in Shanghai (1990-) become the hallmarks for national imagineering, In Taiwan, the lifting of martial law in 1987 also triggers off daring imagination of civic concern. Different from the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Circle claimed by Japan as a colonial ambition in the 1940, the new wave of imagination in East Asia since the 1990s has revealed in a multiple modes. The democratic development in the region fosters constellations of public spaces in local areas helping check against the impact of globalization.
The architecture in Taiwan inherits the heritage of imperialism/revolution, colonialism/nationalism, and dictatorship/democracy over the past century. Its history can be more dramatic if tracing back to Koxinga’s victory on the Dutch in 1661 and his taking back Taiwan from them as the base for his marine kingdom in East Asia. The recent development of the architecture in Taiwan, thanks to the openness and freedom enjoyed by the society, seems to retrieve back the wild thrust and energy of Koxinga’s trade-war cruise on the East Asian Sea.
Keywords: modernity, enlightenment, Identity, imagination
The modernity experienced in East Asia seems to have long been entangled with three conflicting and yet mutually affecting ideations, so-called enlightenment, identity and imagination. It was not until the second half of the 20th century that the modern was taken by this region as an alien influence from outside--- specifically from the Western powers--- through imperialism and colonialism, in which rationality, science and technology formed an overwhelming beam of enlightenment to the society then still having been laden with traditional value. The long last debate on tradition and modern caused the internal tension and aroused a bitter process of identifying the national self against the modern impact. From the 1980s on, the East Asia picked up its momentum to fit well to the global division of labor. Enjoying the economic success and societal transformation, the East Asian gradually dared to imagine its own future---i.e. its own version of modernity. And the image- rebuilding endeavor prevailed in the leading countries of the region, such as hosting international events such as Olympic Game or World Exposition.
Taiwan, an island at the very strategic location in East Asia, experienced quite a unique but also not less generic trajectory of spatial development in its modernization history. The immigrant society of the island welcomed the official recognition of its status as the last one of the provinces of the Ching Empire in 1886. But it was ceded as a colony to Japan by China in 1895 and experienced the colonial ruling for the later 50 years. Civilization and enlightenment (文明開化) like the sun’s glare and coercion was rhetorically imposed on the colonized subjects.
Due to the Civil War, the Republic of China found by the revolutionary Nationalist Party was defeated by the Communist and withdrew to Taiwan. Over two million of population came to Taiwan. Different from immigrants mainly originated from Fu-chien and Kuan-tung during the earlier period, those who fled after 1949 to Taiwan left their homes from all over the vast Mainland. Taipei then became the most Chinese city around the world. The modernization on the island from then on mixed the dual modes of mentality--- home and voyage, fulfillment and transition, different but not dissociated from European’s metropolitan experience on modernity . And Taiwan may go even further with both icons for its identity pursuing---the brighter moon of the homeland (月是故鄉明) and the rounder moon of the advanced country (外國月亮比較圓).
After lifting the martial law and the ban on party organization in 1987, Taiwan moved toward a more open and democratic development. Multiplicity cultivated in social and cultural spheres led to a more diversified expression in both artistic and architectural fields, just like the starry sky in the night. Some “National Doorway Projects” designed by global super stars and many well-done public spaces built locally in rural areas unveil a new prospect of self-imagineering. The publicness constituted in such multiple manners in the city and countryside paves the way for Taiwan to a more decent and civic society.
Enlightenment, identification and imagination thus form respectively a metaphorical trilogy of architectural development structuring and structured by the sun, the moon and the stars. They are not employed separately to the clear-cut periodization of the modern development in Taiwan. Rather, each of them may overlap or permeate one another and they together just form an analytical framework for investigating the modernity experienced in Taiwan in terms of Architecture.
I. The ‘Sea of Islands’ in Early Modern Era
Around 1551, Portuguese called out ‘Ilhas Formosa’, i.e. lovely and handsome, while sailing along the island now named Taiwan. It appeared on the map drawn by the Portuguese in 1554 and since then it witnessed the busy marine activity in the East and South China Sea over the later one and half century, which had been joined by the Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch ships and fleets.
Koxinga (Zeng Cheng-kung), son of pirate and the general of the dying Ming dynasty, defeated the Dutch in 1661 and seized Taiwan from the rule of Netherland. This was a very rare record for the Asian to gain a victory over the European with early modern force. His fleet was active in marine trade among Xiamen, Kinmen, Penghu and Tainan, and far reached Nagasaki and Manila. In protecting the trade profit, he maintained a naval strength against the Japanese and European powers for several decades. The historical contribution of his rule was making Taiwan not another Philippine or Indonesia, colonized by Spanish or Dutch for three centuries long, but the society run by Han people. His force haunted over the ‘sea of islands’ which networked ports-cities in Philippine, South China, Taiwan and Japan.
Although he died next year to his arrival at Taiwan and his kingdom was destroyed by Ching dynasty in 1683, Zeng’s rule brought forth a Chinese-styled city construction integrating the defensive-logistic architecture of the Age of Exploration: Spanish and Dutch battery, fort like Zeelandia (now An-ping), and trade city like Provintia (now Sakam Mansion赤崁樓). In other words, Zeng’s rule incorporated the fort-based architecture structuring and structured by the ‘sea of islands’ into the city-based architecture of the ‘island on the sea’.
The mixture of traditional city and European city prevailed to the second half of the 19th century. Trade companies and consulate buildings of stone masonry construction appeared in port city (Fig. 1). Different from the propping and framing logic of the traditional East Asian architecture, the stone architecture of arched openings and carved cornices, of solid and voluminous outlook, defined the alien cityscape developed ashore the East Asian Sea.
However, the period over the whole Ching dynasty pertained to the age of refuse of the ‘sea of islands’. The marine-ignorant China prohibited trade activity by sea. The vision of ‘sea of islands’ thus narrowed down to only ‘island on the sea’, though the island (Taiwan) was officially administrated as a province---the last one---of China in 1886. Since then, the urbanization of Taiwan gradually shifted northward to Taipei where revealed urgent significance in defensive and economic terms.
The island-wide development from Tainan to Taipei conveyed a message of paradigm shift of the world view: from ‘conquering the sea of islands’ to ‘defending the island on the sea’. The latter implied the prey of strategic importance coveted by imperialist powers, while the former the naval strength cruising over the oceanic territory for its own profit. Ching emperor’s destroying Zeng’s marine power proved his withdrawal from the modern prospect and eventually invited the loss of the War on the sea to Japan in 1895.
II. Urban Space of Enlightenment
China as the dominant sun in East Asia started going drastically in decline in the second half of the 19th century, and at the same time Japan rose as a newly facilitated modern power in this region. When the situation became clear that to take over Taiwan meant to get control on the East Asian sea of islands, Taiwan turned to a trophy won by Japanese after the war of 1895. Japan is commonly depicted as the last empire of the modern world, but it is in fact the only moon-empire reflecting the light mostly from the source of the European enlightenment. Under the double shining of indirect enlightenment, Taipei peculiarly experienced its first modernization with the city-wall building in the late Ching dynasty during 1880-82 and soon later the city-wall removal in 1905 by Japanese colonial ruling.
In the Mainland China, the revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrowing the Ching dynasty in 1911-12 was itself a radical move of enlightenment. This was manifested by the design of the national flag---the white sun, the blue sky, and the bloody land as the price paid. The vision for the newly born Republic of China was somewhat projected on Nan-king Capital Plan (1929) and Great Shanghai Plan (1929) . The two projects, characterized by axial layout and monumental nodal buildings, seem to be influenced by the “City Beautiful Movement” inaugurated at Columbia Exposition in Chicago (1893), while deviated from the uniform cityscape, infinite vista and unlimited expansion of the Großstadt model proposed by Otto Wagner (1911) .
The slogan of ‘civilization and enlightenment’ applied to the urbanization in Taiwan was embodied in projects including City Reform, City Plan and public constructions. All the projects implemented demonstrated seemingly the unified endeavors to achieve the colonial/exploitative goal from the ruler’s point of view.
City Reform and City Plan as Modern Projects
The Ching Governor of Taiwan Liu Ming-chuang administrated from 1886 to 1892 and executed some utility improvement---constructions for electric lighting, sewage system, street pavement, shop houses, and schools (for learning Western and aboriginal knowledge ). He also paved railway from Ki-long to Hsin-chu. Although he did not succeed in the measurement of land, he did try to develop a modern urbanity with the traditional Chinese city model.
During the Japanese rule, the modernization had been promoted through industrialization, institutionalization and urbanization in the island-wide scale. The inter-city network by railway and highway transportation was soon built up and the intra-city circulation became an urgent issue. The city walls were demolished. The grid street pattern was introduced into cities to replace the traditional street pattern, and the winding narrow streets were straightened and widen. The corner building type first appeared in the newly built cityscape, while the street corner was insignificant in the traditional city formation.
The Urban Reform projects were implemented mostly on the basis of the existing walled city structure, in addition to several newly established cities like Taichung, Huan-lien. In the later colonial period, the big-scaled city plans were proposed, such as the Taipei City Plan 1932. The straight and broad parkway system provoked a new vision for motor-vehicle traffic and the large-scaled parks assigned provided urban amenity and contingent function.
Because Taiwan was the first colony of Japan which was the last empire, the colonial city construction in Taiwan can be taken as an experiment for Japanese to apply the European model. It may indeed fit for the higher capacity of urban flow, but it is also undeniable that behind such reconstruction of the city saw the top-down coercion and control on the native people, by the name of modern rationality.
Primary Buildings of Monumentality
The Government General Building was completed in 1919. It was designed with the European style, located at the Baroque city node with its volume swelled by the ‘poché’ principle, e.g. to build massive appearance with void space inside as courtyard. All primary buildings followed this European principle to be looked monumental and repressive (Fig. 2). Only those for residential use were built in detached or semi-detached form in the middle of the garden.
Most of these paternalist public buildings were designed to orient toward east and north, against the traditional orientation system which mainly directing the primary buildings toward the south or west. They topologically conflicted against the traditional city order, and on the other hand also brought forth a sense of kind of liberation (Fig. 4).
In 1931, Japan set up Manchuria as another colony. This time they acted more confidently to put the Nipponese style onto public buildings such as Ministries of Finance, Juridiction, and Headquarter of Guan-tung Army (Fig. 3). Even in these cases, the Japanese national form was superficially applied to the appearance with their planar layout still derived from the Beaux Art practice .
H. Yatuska argues that the subjectivity of the colonized is a complicated issue and one of the truths he fails to see is that only because those built by Japanese were actually copies from European styles so that they survive to even now. If those primary buildings built in Nipponese style like those constructed in Machuria, even though achieving high quality in architectonic sense like Chu-joe Hsia admits , it doesn’t seem they could live out the Nationalist’s ruling which had fought against Japanese for more than two decades. The architectural form of the Government General Building in Taipei, as an example, with eclectic European style was ironically acceptable without irritation to Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese for the building’s signifying progress and advance in genuine sense to all of them.
This means what the colonial city and architecture built by Japanese realized in Taiwan projected in fact a moon-like mode of enlightenment which only reflected the ‘sun’-shine from the European forerunners. Only when occupying Manchuria in 1931, Japan as the last empire gradually picked up its confidence as a new rising sun in East Asia. That is what Taiwan has been taken as a unique experiment base means against its particular historical context.
Regionalism and Eclecticism
Kaolu Inote was the top officer during the colonial period in charge of island-wide construction affairs. He completed several distinctive works including Chien-kung Shrine (1928), Police Union Building (1929), Teacher’s Union Building (1930) and Assembly Hall (1936). He founded the first architectural association in Taiwan issuing the first professional magazine and promoting the scientific and vernacular understanding on architecture.
His design of Chien-kung Shrine was freed of Shin-tou style inherent in Japanese national emblem. Inote applied instead the eclectic dome and arched window to the shrine’s appearance. He added a pool in front of the shrine for fire emergency and created cool ventilation for the inner courtyard. The colonnade attached to the front of the shrine met the need to shed off strong sunshine . This case revealed Inote’s concern for the regional characteristics of tropical climate.
As for the architectural attitude of Taiwanese, there were few cases showing resistance against the colonial aesthetic practice. Some of well-to-do’s houses mixed hierarchical spatial order of the traditional courtyard house with the stone construction of foreign mansion (洋樓). They were the architecture of eclecticism rather than resistance, let alone criticism.
III. Identification: Cultural Physiognomy and Modern Form
Modernity experienced in East Asia gets in company tightly with wars: the Sino-Nippon War (1895, 1931-1945), the Nippon-Russia War (1905), the Civil War of China (1945-49), Korea War (1950), and Vietnam War (1965-75). The wars bring forth Diaspora---e.g. the displacement and the nostalgia of Japanese moving to China, Taiwan and Southeastern Asia, of Chinese (the revolutionist R.O.C. government) fleeing to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and of Vietnamese to Hong Kong and Australia. The melancholic sense of loss associated with the modernity for East Asian who suffered the war connotes not just the homeland lost in terms of psychic and societal meaning but rather the loss of the home in physical and national sense.
Over the unstable period of displacement and its eventual emplacement, the involvement with struggle between the tradition and the modernity kept in close pace. On the one hand, the immigrants swayed between the unreachable homeland far away and gradual recognition of the homeland here and now; on the other hand, the modernization in company with the Westernization broke down the tie with the tradition. The identity issue thus tends to involve that the mentality of the moon in homeland being regarded brighter (月是故鄉明) always mixes with the fawning attitude of foreign moon looking more round (外國月亮比較圓).
The Sinic Revival
For consoling the collective nostalgia and strengthening its legitimacy, the Nationalist government promoted the Chinese Revival Movement in 1960s. Those primary buildings in Taipei such as Grand Hotel (adapted from Taiwan Shrine by Japanese)(Fig. 5), History Museum (adapted from Commodity Exhibition Hall by Japanese), Palace Museum, Science Pavilion, Martyr Shrine, Chung-shan Building, Taipei Park…etc. were built in Chinese palace or garden style, which was regarded as the Chinese reactive model against modernity since the founding era of the Republic of China, say, dated back to the Chapel at Yen-jing University in Beijing design by American architect Henry K. Murphy.
Chinese Culture College was funded in 1962 with its early buildings designed in Chinese palace form and laid out on the Ming-tang Schema , such as Da-chen Building, Da-jen Building, Da-te Building, etc. on campus. This trend continued to cover the projects like Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (1972) and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Complex Park (1980-89).
The collective nostalgia of the 1950-80s in Taiwan, entangled with the melancholic feeling that “the moon in homeland is brighter”, mandated those Revivalist buildings and subtly joined to entrench the authoritarian structure under nationalism. The whole situation seemed to accord with the Cold War disposition in East Asia, under the strong beam shed from the rising sun of the US.
However, the Revivalist schemata were anyhow emplaced later onto the planar layout of the new building type---the high-rise apartment building. The quarterly-detached apartment high-risers, square and decent in form, were welcomed by those newly rich buyers and represented an emplacement in dwelling for those displaced after 1949. Lincoln Mansion (1973) and Bai-li Mansion (1973) were among the well known examples. To sum up, Taipei 101 (2004) designed by C. Y. Lee was deemed as the hallmark par excellence and the very last of this trend. And, at this moment, for those displaced immigrants and their offspring, the homeland in Mainland became the other land while the other land of Taiwan became eventually their homeland---the moon here and now is brightest than what so ever.
The Modern Tectonic
As a late-comer in the contest of modernization, to catch up with the advanced countries has long been set up by Taiwan government as the supreme goal of national development. Most of Taiwanese elites studied abroad and they gained high respect and opportunity when they returned home. During the period of 1950s-70s, to some extent, modernization tended to be regarded equivalent to Westernization. That is what the saying ‘foreign moon looks more round’ means.
Against the background when the US aid contributed to the burgeoning modernization in Taiwan, the establishment of Tunghai University and Chung-hsing Village were two significant landmarks demonstrating the orthodox mode of modernity for the island. Tunghai University was sponsored by the United Board in US which concluded 13 Christian universities moved away from Mainland China. The campus design was committed to I.M. Pei, C.K. Chen, and C.K. Chang, and their modernist scheme was realized during 1955-63 into the epochal paradigm in Taiwan. Luce Chapel co-designed by them also became the master piece rarely overshadowed even in East Asia.
To avoid air raid, Taiwan Provincial government was decided in 1955 to move to the Middle Taiwan. The whole plan was worked out by the staffs of the government with the conceptual model of the Garden City. The site of 105 hectares was laid out with picturesque winding roads and cul-de-sac system, and filled loosely with detached and semi-detached houses. Surprisingly, the village was equipped with a complete sewage system which was the first realization in Taiwan (Fig. 6).
Chung-hwa Shopping Arcade built in Taipei in Zeilenbau box-like form was completed in 1961, which was deemed at that time as the successful case of modern architecture. Yin-bian-duan Redevelopment Project published in 1972, though not realized, revealed the ambition of the central government to build a brand new city center by the hand of a multi-national company from Los Angeles (Fig. 7). As a matter of fact, from 1950s to 1970s the Nationalist government took the developmental route for rapid economic growth instead of social welfare approach such as providing public housing.
The most obvious example in maneuvering the modern design to serve the Nationalist ideology was Taipei Municipal Government building (1980-1994). The reason it was chosen among the entries in competition was said because its plan being in double cross shape which symbolized the National Birth Day (i.e. October 10, called in Chinese ‘Double Tenth Day’ and the sign of ‘double ten’ (++) was imbued with the implication of the state---the Republic of China).
The clash between the architectural metaphors as moons for nostalgia and for Westernization forged a composite of identity for the nationality construction---to be a Chinese state and to be modern. In fact, the identification as such was itself seemingly a fabrication of ideology and it went on serving the pro-development policy, and thus left a considerable gap in housing supply afterward for private sectors’ speculation.
IV. Places for Imagineering
Appadurai contends that the area studies remind us of the globalization being itself a deeply historical, uneven and even localizing process. It not necessarily implies homogenization or Americanization. Different societies would appropriate the materials of modernity differently . If we look back in Taiwan at the modernity monopolized by the colonialism or imperialism with its claim of enlightenment and at the modernization promoted by the nation-state striving for fitting into the worldwide division of labor, we see the collective identity to be forged somewhat in a totalitarian way. While over the latest development, the heterogeneous version of modernity structured by different ways of imagination unfolding from local endeavors demonstrates a kind of diverse globalization.
In fact, after the period of 1970s-80s when the self-conscious movements caring for the lived land drew popular attention, the East Asian region picks up its own momentum in re-imagineering the self. Olympic game hosted in Seoul (1988) and Pu-dung development in Shanghai (1989-) become the hallmarks for national imagineering, In Taiwan, the lifting of martial law in 1987 also triggers off active imagination concerning the civic amenity. Different from the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Circle claimed by Japan as a colonial ambition in the 1935, the new wave of imagination in East Asia since the 1990s has revealed in a multiple mode. The democratic development in the region fosters constellations of public spaces in local areas helping to check against the impact of globalization.
Starry sky can be best applied to describing the global-local development during this period in Taiwan. Stars in the sky can be defined by astronomical or mythological order and then categorized into specific constellations. However, broadly speaking, for most ordinary viewers, stars in the sky imply multiplicity. Different from the strongly sunny beam-like domination of ideology, or the mirroring moon for the self as the other to the warfare and to the Western modernity, stars are multiple light spots or points always allowing for infinite ways of imagination. For us, stars which represent those architectural works appearing in the period from the 1990s till now manifest a kind of de-ideologized or de-centered intention.
Global Stars’ Projects
Earlier superstars from abroad include I.M Pei, Gottfred Böhm, Kenzo Tange who were invited around 1950s-60s to design for private sectors---e.g. university, church and school. Their shinning works mainly drew attention from the professional sphere. From 1980s on, increasing foreign architects were committed by the government to complete some public works like Dung-shan River Water Park by Team Zoo (1994) and National Museum of Prehistory by Michael Grave (2001), with its Peinan Culture Park by Naido Hiro (1999).
Among many stories, the Guggenheim Museum Project in Taichung was so far the most sensational international event in Taiwan’s international campaign for city promotion. This was also part of Guggenheim Foundation’s global maneuvering within the cultural economy. The city government suspended the project originally for the New Civic Center designed by Swiss team Weber + Hofer AG Architects and took the site to negotiate with the Guggenheim. From 2001 to 2004 Guggenheim Project was once extended to include an Opera House (by J. Nouvel), a New Municipal Center (by F. Gehry), and the Museum (by Z. Hadid). A project of 12.4 billion US dollars was proposed by the ‘Two Kings and One Queen’- a dream for Taichung to link to the world . The project was finally turned down by the city council for its difficulty to be run independently by the city government and the New Civic Center Project was resumed then to its completion.
The World Sport Stadium in Kao-hsiung designed by Toyo Ito (2008), Tourist Center in Sun Moon Lake by Norihiko Dan (2010), Ito’s current working on the construction of Taichung Opera House, Mecanoo Team’s working on Music Complex in Kao-hsiung, Taodo Ando on Library in Asia University in Taichung and Koolhaas’ winning the competition of Taipei Pop Music Center in 2010, are all hailed as brilliant master pieces and manipulated to marketing the city, the institute or the tourism.
Nevertheless, it was always clearly the real estate sectors which profited mostly from those grand projects. City Civic Centre project and the Opera House Project in Taichung seemed to be the case. The developers went to boom along the parkway in the area assigned to the projects. In addition, there exists another debate on if the global architect really pays his or her concern for the ‘locality’ of the site. The target pointed here is the Opera House in Taichung (Fig. 8). Since the project was revised from the submission for the competition of Forum for Music, Dance and Visual Culture in Gent (2004), it can hardly avoid reminding of Appadurai’s alleged suggestion that the local should not just wait to be fed with fodder of international knowledge . What’s at issue is how does the existing space production mechanism cooperate with the global super stars or how to well incorporate their works, when built, into the everyday life of local people？
Building the Local
During the 1990s, a group of young architects showed their intention to practice in township or countryside (e.g. set up office in village) with some of them even keep declining the commission from real estate developers. They showed strong commitment to enhance the civic quality of the local area and advocated the public-ness for the rural community.
With a rough categorization, they can be divided into two groups: one is more or less like the ‘Expressionist’ including Sheng-yuan Hwang, Li-hwang Lu, Wi-li Liao and Kuo-tsang Liu; the other may be called ‘Tectonic-Radical’ with its members such as Wen-jei Chiu, In-chuen Hsei, Yu-cheng Hung, etc. Their free and challenging designs happened to meet the emerging collective imagination of the local people.
These local stars worked on the design of bridges, pavilions, schools and renovation of warehouses. They made these constructions became the architecture as carrier of humane quality and social relation, reactionary to those modernization projects mainly for motor movement and for rationality/efficiency. Some of such place making practice patched up urban gap between fragmented domains in the city. The Heart of Hsin-chu and the Yi-lan City Crescent Project (Fig. 9) were among the most aggressive cases.
The Heart of Hsin-chu Project (Fig. 10) was concerned with the history-laden city gate located in the middle of a roundabout in the busy city center. Wen-jai Chiu created a sunken arena connecting the city gate with stairs and linked laterally by underground to the city moat already dredged. He then provided a new movement for pedestrians walking from surface to underground and formulated a distinctive urban sense of place.
City Crescent Project in Yi-lan has been implemented for the past nearly thirty years. Japanese developed the crescent-shaped area to the south of the old city with public facilities such as brewery, military base, county government, jail, bank, park, primary school and railway station. Over the years, county government and jail were moved out for commercial redevelopment, performing art center was built in the park, and remodeling jobs were done for warehouses by/in railway, brewery, bank, etc . Now the city moat reopening project is undergoing along the popular road on which the old city wall was once located.
The architecture locally built as such can be regarded as the machine of imagination- catalyst. Those works provoke the spatial imagination of local people and deliberate a brand new sense of public place for/with them. All these development has been in accordance with the democratic milieu in the local Taiwan.
V. Matrix-ing the Tradition and the Modernity
Because involved with the growth of the self, or the wake of the self-consciousness, the experience of modernity in Taiwan, as an economic-political sub-system in East Asia, may be regarded essentially as a cultural experience. In this sense, Zigmunt Bauman’s interpretation of culture can be a helpful toolset for recasting a look at the modern architectural development in Taiwan, which embodies the experience of modernity in the civic and everyday life world.
First I would argue that Bauman’s contention of the culture elucidated in threefold can be a framework for our re-interpretative task: culture as concept, culture as structure and culture as praxis . All these can be further extended, with regard to the architectural argument above-mentioned without too obvious tailoring, to the culture as concept of enlightenment and resistance, the culture as structuring and structured capacity for legitimacy and identity, and the culture as praxis embodying the collective imagination. Such a hermeneutic extension somewhat meets Bauman’s another idea---‘culture as matrix’.
Among his debates on culture issue, the idea for him to distinguish ‘system’ and ‘matrix’ seems to be worthy of attention. For Bauman, systemness is essentially to subordinate the freedom of the elements to the pattern maintenance of the totality; while, inspired by Claude Lévi-Strauss, the culture can be portrayed on the other hand as a structure of choices---a matrix of possible, finite in number yet practically uncountable permutations . He argues that society and culture tend to retain their distinctiveness but their identity can only last through change, and thus to master a culture means to master a matrix of possible permutations, a set of fully implemented and always far from completion .
Over the past 350 years or even longer, Taiwan as part of the sea of islands experienced through playing different roles in tribute system, pirate economy, semi-periphery of world system, newly industrialization or globalization, and has eventually grown to be what itself is out of the matrix structuring and structured by the East Asian context. No matter how the systems within which Taiwan played roles frequently alternated, the matrix it belonged to has been the same one in spite of its keeping mutating a lot.
Applying the idea of matrix to analyze the modernization of Taiwan may be worthy of a trial. For example, unless a short period under the lead of Zeng Cheng-kung’s marine power around 1660s, it didn’t seem until 1980s that Taiwan had independently and directly encountered the modernity by itself. The modernity with which Taiwanese was confronted was guided through Japanese occupation during 1895-1945 and Chinese rule before and after then. The colonial sun was in fact the moon reflecting the Zeitgeist of the civilization and enlightenment from the genuine sun of the European modernity. The later authoritarian sunny construction of the Nationalist government was also covered with consoling function and catching up with the advanced economies, and eventually pointed to the moon-metaphors of brighter at homeland and rounder foreign one. That’s the reason why during this period we saw the transplantation of European or Sinic Revival ‘style’ (or the International style) rather than the ‘tectonic’ invention generated from the Han or autochthonous dwelling culture. And the resistance in terms of architecture was seldom seen either. Houses of some compradors and rich traders during the colonial period, or even those designed by the modernists architects after the Second World War, if judged in stricter sense, were mostly adaptive or eclectic rather than resistant. Only Chung-hsing New Village and Da-hung Wang’ s works like Rainbow Mansion might be counted as among the critical modern projects in Taiwan.
The architecture and urbanism developed by the global and local stars after 1990s has been quite multivalent in speculating the modernity in Taiwan. Especially those talented local architects ‘practiced locally’ to redefined public spaces in the countryside with variety of their design strategies. For these architects, the periphery is the frontier. All their works in the form of bridge, pavilion, schools or public institution, help shape the public space with sense of place, or more precisely, of the ‘locality’. In this relatively ideology-free society, the advantage of its opening to the global and local architects indeed harvested kinds of positive exchange among one another. What the locality achieved by superstars and local stars architects’ formulations seems a small step forward to self-consciously structuring the matrix of its own.
Therefore, positing architecture back into the refreshing debate of urbanism and culture means significantly to the current situation in Taiwan. Like the European school of ‘the architecture of the city’, practices such as City Crescent Project in Yi-lan or city reconstruction projects in other old cities with issues addressed to enlivening up the matrix of Taiwan proper may unfold a valid approach toward a genuine ‘overcoming of modernity’. For Taiwan and those of Asian context, the genuine enlightenment should be a sort of reflexive mode, which needs to be guided toward re-imagining the tradition at its meeting with the modern, and identifying the modern out of the ever-evolving matrix of the tradition.
The architecture in Taiwan inherits the heritage of imperialism/revolution, colonialism/nationalism, and dictatorship/democracy over the past century. Our historical point of view concerning the architectural development can be more aggressive and even provocative if tracing back to Koxinga’s victory on the Dutch in 1661 and his taking Taiwan as the base for his marine kingdom in East Asia. The recent development of the starry architecture in Taiwan seems to retrieve the wild thrust and energy of Koxinga’s pirate cruise on the East Asian Sea.
As far as the space-culture as matrix is concerned, we may reach some tentative conclusion as what follows:
1. Most of people in Taiwan (or even in East Asia) only remember that their modernization dated from the second half of the 19th century. They’ve forgot it could be traced back to Zeng Cheng-kung’s marine strength in the 17th century which was somewhat not less superior to the Western powers on the sea. The historical depth for their elaborating modernity should thus go through to that point where the East Asian first met the European and both were then competitive with each other. The modernity was not dropping to them suddenly from zero, nor was it only a given from outside, but it was a historical mutation of the existing matrix of East Asia while colliding against the modernity first introduced to it by the European.
2. The modernization in Taiwan had been of the moon-like mode, refracted from the modernization of China and Japan, which directly reacted to the beam of enlightenment of the Western modernity. In this sense, Taiwan doesn’t seem to ‘overcome the modern’ like Japan which directly and thoroughly learned from European and also underwent widespread self-reflection on modernity after the War. Nor does it likely struggle to resist modernity from within like China which had paid tremendously to get itself modernized.
3. As for the architecture in Taiwan, it doesn’t seem to have a sense of regionalism if the regionalism is defined as those worked out through consideration of specific climate, culture and history of a definite area. The architecture of the recent 20 years in Taiwan can be recognized as various concerns with the ‘locality’ and they performed like myriad of stars rather than named constellations.
4. Ironically such architecture of locality gains probably the potential to develop the culture-matrix of Taiwan proper, which in fact may have been incorporate into the East Asian one with commonly shared history and culture. Therefore a critical regionalism in architecture in Taiwan and Easy Asia may be possibly constructed through those architectural practices undertaken and undertaking locally if they are capable of embodying a self-consciously conceptualized understanding of the locality/history of their own.
To sum up, the East Asia as the sea of ports and islands is vividly emerging as a field of constructive discourse. The unique trajectory of the architectural development in Taiwan seems to be more relevantly elucidated against this field. To think in a regional perspective can probably be an intermediate strategy to grope for the new message out of the matrix complicated always with the historical-cultural tension between tradition/modernity, global/ local and self/other debates.