Unfold the map of Taipei city, you would notice the complexity of its urban context. It seems like a cloth composed of various fabric, each remarks different of time era. The textures of Taipei though look dazzling even chaotic, but it is the intricacy that pulls the trigger to drive people into digging out the hidden gems. Under the layer of modern metropolis, there are some old memories looming.
Here we’d love to share some historical sites in Taipei where you can have a glimpse of old Taipei and walk into the tunnel of time from Japanese colonized era to KMT-influx period.
Can you imagine that just two blocks away from Taipei 101 and other surrounding sky-reaching high-rises sits an old community which was built decades ago? The community, Sisinan village is a clusters of few houses of one or two stories. Located in the most vibrant area, the village creates a fascinating contrast to the blocks with skyscrapers.
Before WWII, the buildings of Sisinan village were used as warehouses. In 1948, under the arrangement of KMT government, the households of the military factory No.44 in Qingdao,China came to settle down in the empty warehouses. Each family can only be allocated with about 12m2 area as their living space. Originally the assignments were just a temporary housing plan for the militaries’ retreat. But since the defeat of the Nationalist party in Mainland China, the residents have no choice but to stay in Taiwan.
The houses in the village were poorly constructed. As more and more high-rises standing on the blocks around the village and changed the cityscape of Xinyi District, the decaying village became trouble of the city. Most of the people had already moved out, thus the city government decided to tear off all the houses. Thanks to the enthusiasts of culture and history, the village was finally kept so that people nowadays can read the history witnessed by the houses by experiencing the narrow spatial scale. Now the buildings are refurbished. There are restaurants, shops and exhibitions stationed under the roofs.
South Airport Apartments
When speaking of the most chaotic urban landscape in Taipei, one can’t help mentioning the South Airport Apartments. The organically-grow volumes reflect the living unit in the urban jungle. Now the mass seems so delirious that the space is planted with a surreal vibe.
In fact, when the apartments were constructed in 1964 with assistance of the US, they were claimed to be the most advanced residential architecture. The architecture was designed in a modernist style. The spiral stairs are the most iconic feature of the buildings.
The condos were built as social housing to solve the dwelling issue of Taipei in 1960s, when numerous people moved to the city. However, the dwelling unit still can’t cope with the expanding population of the families. Therefore, people tried every means to enlarge the living space which formed the new façade now we see.
The South Airport Apartments are the reflections of the urban survival rule. Now the apartments are the havens of poverty-stricken people and the elderly, but it doesn’t change the community into slum. Instead, it gradually evolved into commercial-mixed habitat. Some export even suggest that the apartments should be enrolled as one of the cultural heritage of the United Nations.
When you finish your exploration in the apartment, you can start another journey of food-digging at the night market which is at the ground floor of the apartments.