Formosa the Ugly?

Formosa the Ugly?
Photo Credit: 秋惠文庫

By Chiya Elle/Ketagalan Media

When I returned from my trip to Peru, I enthusiastically showed a picture of Agua Calientes, a serene, little town nestled at the foot of Machu Picchu to my boss. He left me perplexed when he exclaimed, “Oh my God, what a dump!” Then I realized that he was utterly appalled by the cheap steel structures which the Taiwanese eyes have been trained to automatically crop out of sight. I wonder what he would say about the streets of Taiwan, a supposedly developed country.

IMF ranks Taiwan as one of the most advanced economies in Asia, with high purchasing power parity and a poverty rate impressively low at 1.5% as of 2012. Yet, for a pretty rich girl, Taiwan sure doesn’t dress like it.

Exposed electrical chords, and streaky concrete or tiled façades decorated with blindingly colorful neon signs on the corner of every visual frame, adorn Taiwan’s poorly planned cities. If you manage to escape the chaos of the cities into the mountains, you are likely to be immediately confronted by makeshift structures of metal sheets and plastic, or Chinese-opera style gazebos painted in a red I cannot describe except with the word menstrual. My personal all time favorite man-made atrocity is the bamboo railings commonly spotted on hikes or country roads. They are thick, they’re concrete, and they’re painted as bamboos. Considering the light and shadow depicted by a combination of spring green and forest green, one simply cannot say that an effort has not been made to convince people that they were real bamboos, oddly attached to wood (also concrete).

Dadaocheng. Photo Credit: Chiya Elle/Ketagalan Media

Dadaocheng. Photo Credit: Chiya Elle/Ketagalan Media

Taiwan’s Architectural History

The most self-evident truth about Taiwan’s architecture is that its cultural heritage is confused. When the Japanese arrived in Taiwan in the late 1800s, they proceeded to rid Taiwan of its Han heritage by dismantling Qing era structures such as the Taipei city west gate, and only abolished the plan to tear down the other four gates due to strong protests. The Japanese began their plan of modernizing Taiwan, which included building railways, public clinics, and schools. The colonial government intended to model Taichung after Kyoto due to the similarity of their river embankments. Now, those who have been to both Kyoto and Taichung would struggle to spot their resemblance though, and that’s because before Kyoto could happen, the KMT arrival happened.

The News Lens international edition has been authorized to repost part of this article. The full piece is published on Ketagalan Media here: Formosa the Ugly?

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor:


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