Thu, Sep 03, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Routes through the roots

A Brussels-based designer is in Taipei working on a urban renewal project in Wanhua District, creating a passport as a personalized souvenir for neighborhood walking tours

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

Pablo Calderon Salazar works on his project on Wanhua District at a coffee shop in Taipei.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei times

Pablo Calderon Salazar was given only two weeks to implement his urban renewal project, but time wasn’t a problem.

The Brussels-based Colombian, who is currently in Taiwan as a designer with the Taipei World Design Capital 2016 program, says the short duration of his stay doesn’t affect his project because of the nature of his work, which involves collaborating with local partners and creating a prototype of something that could be used by these partners and others in the future.

He says his main goal is interpreting the interests of the various constituents of the site he’s involved, in using dialogue as a main tool.

“I don’t have any idea of ownership as long as someone can find it valuable, even if they use it in a completely different way than I had intended,” Calderon says.

Calderon is part of a series of designer residencies and exchanges sponsored by Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs after the city was designated World Design Capital. He is the third designer to come to Taipei to host a public event and lecture this year.

He chose urban regeneration as his project and is testing his research in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), the city’s oldest neighborhood, with a walking tour tomorrow followed by a talk explaining his ideas. Attendees will meet at Bopiliao Old Street (剝皮寮歷史街區) at 2pm.

After visiting neighborhood sites, people and organizations, Calderon noted a common theme of walking tours in Wanhua. The district’s urban decay and seedy reputation has sparked many restoration and social projects, such as the homeless-led Hidden Taiwan tours and the Urbanist Collaborative’s (都市里人) historical and cultural tours.

“They’re doing the same activity, although with different goals,” Calderon says. For example, the Hidden Taipei tours are aimed at reintegrating the homeless into society, while others may focus on art and design, history or culture.

Event Notes

What: Roots through the roots walking tour

Where: Bopiliao Old Street Performance Hall (剝皮寮老街演藝廳), 175, Kangding Rd, Taipei City (台北市康定路175號)

When: Tour on Friday, 2pm to 3:30pm, lecture 4pm to 5:30pm

Admission: Free, but must register at

“But they were somehow disconnected,” he adds. “My idea was to find a way to connect them in the same practices they already do. I don’t propose something absolutely new — I don’t believe in novelty. I try to play on what’s already there and find the connections that are already there.”

Calderon says that a tour is an ephemeral experience, and participants don’t leave with a physical souvenir. Hidden Taipei hands out a map with a photo of the tour guide, but Calderon wanted something more personal using elements that are common in Taiwanese culture.

His product is a passport-size journal which participants can have stamped at different locations throughout the tour — a feature available in many Taiwan tourist destinations. Under the stamp is a space where people can jot down notes or draw pictures. Stamps may take the form of a place name, drawing, signature and even a phrase or complete sentence telling part of the site’s story.

On the back of the passport is something that Calderon calls a psycho-geographical map of the tour, which is used to depict one’s personal memories and experiences in the area represented through drawings and writings.

Calderon says even though the passport will still be used for different aims depending on the organization, it connects the two through a common tool that serves to reinforce one’s memory and the historical value of the place.

“I like to say the organizations will be ‘together apart.’ It doesn’t mean they have to work together but they find togetherness in a common practice. That simple understanding is already important for the sense of community.”

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