I spent the last week of January 2012 in Taipei, Taiwan. Although I’ve spent a lot of time in Seoul, South Korea, only in the last year have I been able to visit other cities in Asia: first, Fukuoka, Japan, and now, Taipei. I’ll resist the natural temptation to compare Taipei to Seoul (short version: Taipei is smaller than Seoul) and will instead let the city stand on its own.
First, here’s a typical Taipei streetscape:
Yup, lots of drab, utilitarian concrete buildings. This is what happens to architecture when buildings need to go up cheaply and quickly in a rapidly modernizing and growing city. No time for the picturesque brownstones we’re spoiled by in New York City.
Next, here’s a typical Taipei roadway:
The drab building and scooters that are so prevalent in Taipei give the city a bit of a third world quality, so you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Taipei has a booming electronics and manufacturing industry and is home to one of the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101:
This beautiful structure anchors a chic commercial district that would be at home in any major world city.
Lastly, lest you think that the Asian aesthetic is absent in the modern Taipei landscape, let me end this first post with a picture of the National Palace Museum, a great example of traditional Chinese architecture brought into the 20th century:
This museum is a fascinating blend of the old and new: it was built fairly recently (in the mid-1960’s) to house artifacts from 2,000 years of Chinese history that were spirited out of the country by the Nationalists in advance of the Communist takeover of Beijing in 1948. The history is long, complex, and fascinating, so rather than try to summarize it here, I’ll do you a favor and point you to the Wikipedia article on the museum.
Coming up in future installments: Taipei’s famous night markets, Longshan temple pray-a-thon, and the ghosts of Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-Shek…