Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that there are a lot of railway fans in the nation, and that any development should only proceed after careful consultation, but qualified this sentiment by saying that the development must also be “optimized” in terms of the benefits it brings.
A contradiction exists between these two statements. Cultural preservation is not a profit-making enterprise. It has a far more profound mission: to educate and pass on cultural heritage to subsequent generations. If art and culture are reduced to being measured in commercial terms, the whole project is consigned to going the same way as the Huashan Creative Park and the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, two other projects that the city government botched. It will become another commercial playground for young culture-vulture pretenders, a place utterly bereft of historical context and devoid of any cultural significance.
Senior government officials must intervene and make sure that the site is not converted into an art museum and shopping mall, so that it can become a historic site for the railway industry that Taipei can feel proud of.
A site for a “living” railroad museum in which the many engines and carriages that still exist can be displayed is a must, and the maintenance and manufacturing processes should be reconstructed.
Hung Chih-wen is an associate professor of geography at National Taiwan Normal University.
Translated by Paul Cooper