Thu, Mar 10, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Mapping the regeneration of Taipei

A conference next week will discuss how to achieve a balance between preserving the old while upgrading urban infrastructure in Taipei

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Urban regeneration is a crucial issue in Taipei, one that involves the cooperation of urban planners, local residents and all levels of government.

Plans for the reuse of heritage sites such as the Huashan Cultural and Creative Industry Center and the redesign of the National Taiwan Museum and 228 Park have lingered unresolved for years. Most agree these areas require development yet disagree on how best to renew the space.

"The biggest problem right now is educating the public on sustainable development," said Wu Kung-tyng (吳光庭), chairperson of the Chinese Institute of Urban Design. "Normally the procedure is to tear down the old and build up the new. We prefer to work within already existing structures and preserve the historical and cultural value of these buildings."

In an effort to instigate dialogue among the government, architects and the public, the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA), together with the British Council, has organized a seminar on sustainable development of creative industries. The agenda covers regeneration of heritage sites in Taiwan and how to make use of them as artistic and cultural venues once restored.

The British Council has invited a list of internationally known architects and scholars to share their experience of urban renewal in the UK. Their Taiwanese counterparts, experts in architecture and urban planning will share case studies of regeneration in Taiwan.

"European cities have a long history of experience in this field. This [seminar] allows us to discuss current questions of development in Taiwan with designers and architects who have experience in dealing with similar issues elsewhere," Wu said.

Also a professor in the department of architecture at Tamkang University, Wu said the most important thing is communication between the landowners, locals living in the surrounding community and those contracted to develop it. He admitted, however, that reaching agreement is difficult.

At times, the restoration of heritage sites can be more costly and time-consuming than demolishing a building and starting afresh. The regulations concerning renovation of historical buildings are complicated, according to Lin Jou-min (林洲民), founder of JM Lin Architect Group.

An area currently under construction by Lin's firm is the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei. After a year of adhering to rigid regulations, the exterior and interior of the museum were recently completed. Not a firm believer in the exact restoration of heritage sites, Lin advocates a middle ground where the regulations are relaxed to allow more freedom to the contracting designers.

"The meaning of regeneration is to maintain the cultural and historical significance of a building but apply it to contemporary society. ? The rules here [in Taiwan] are too confining. Restoration must open up to allow more modern features into the historical site," said Lin.

His example of progressive restoration is a proposal for the museum that would introduce an underground exhibition space that lets in natural lighting, similar to the Louvre in Paris. Future plans to extend the National Taiwan Museum underground and overhaul the 228 Memorial Peace Park area behind the museum have been proposed but are in the incubation stage until an agreement is reached between the central and Taipei City governments, Lin said.

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