Secret City: Illegal Architecture of Taiwan

TaipeiMany cities in Asia proper, have captured the imaginations of authors, specifically science fiction writers, due in large part due to their disjointed, chaotic, and multi-layered nature. These cities have a tendency to map their histories, migration patterns, linguistic groups and associated economic levels onto the very architecture and design of the city. In Taipei much of the building is done illegally, in ‘secret’ places all around the city, particularly by rural migrants, artists and experimental architects. This has resulted in some very dynamic and cyber-punk worthy designs that further colour the fabric of Taipei. Via Web Urbanist:

Beyond the ‘official city’ of Taipei, where modernization and beautification efforts are glossing over the city’s natural and historical origins, there’s Instant City. Using Taipei’s conventional modern architecture as a platform and energy source, this network of illegal architecture attaches itself ‘like a parasite’ to create unsanctioned urban farms, night markets and other social gathering places.

The project is spearheaded by a loose collective of architects calling themselves ‘WEAK!’ after ‘weak architecture’, their term for the vibrant, organic and often transient structures that sprout up on top of the strong, industrial base city of Taipei. They believe that the two can and should co-exist, and that these illegal pop-ups preserve the “natural wisdom” of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese people who have moved from the countryside to the cities …

View all the photos here

5 Comments on "Secret City: Illegal Architecture of Taiwan"

  1. Good luck doing this in America where you need a permit for everything.

    • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

      Well, just to play devil’s advocate:

      What if this sort of thing is concentrated mainly in the poorer, more marginal ends of town? The shantytowns that are inhabited by undocumented migrant workers, lots soaked with poison or littered with the shells of burnt out vehicles?  Those parts where the local building code inspector probably only shows his face once a month to collect his bag money?

      Granted, the permits aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if, as the Sichuan earthquakes of 2010 seemed to indicate, they testify more to the pattern of official patronage networks rather than the rigor of a building’s design or construction.  But the complete absence of permits doesn’t exactly instill much confidence either.

      Permit laws are pretty annoying in the U.S., but they clearly function much better than they do in anarchic, third-world shantytowns prone to fire and collapse.

      Just sayin’.

      • eyeoftheaxis | Mar 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

        I visited an off the grid sustainable
        permaculture site last weekend. It is out in the country so building codes are
        nonexistent. The thing they were most concerned about is the looming
        federal regulations on the sale of produce at farmers markets and “Codex Alimentarius”. Urban Farming has become popular with some
        of the folks on the poor side of town that have little access to real food. High
        tunnels while not especially architecturally significant, are great for
        extending the growing season. They have so far escaped the ordinance police, in
        this city where you need a permit to change a light bulb. Poor
        people feeding themselves healthy food is reason enough for the establishment to
        get all butthurt and start in with the rules and regulations. On the state
        level, grant money is available for “established farmers” that want to build
        high tunnels.

        Pic in case anyone
        wonders WTF is a high tunnel.

      • Jin The Ninja | Mar 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

        i think there is an important purpose behind building regulations, but i think that purpose has clearly shifted from safety to profit; however all the photos are buildings built by radical guerilla architects (and i`d assume they would build safe structures).  pretty much all of these post industrial hubs (taipei, HK, bangkok, saigon, shanghai, KL) are huge fire traps (as you mention), but there is also an interesting kind of innovation intersecting with traditional building methods, that is thought-provoking and questions exactly why we`re building grossly inefficient, expensive, over sized and horrifically `ugly` glass and steel towers… but devil`s advocate is actually important in this discussion- what do permits mean, what should they mean, and what do people want.

  2. The American “Government” micromanagement of our lives will only last as long as the American Empire.  The sooner it dies, the better.

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