Long a curiosity for people driving along the north coast between Tamsui and Keelung, the “UFO” houses as they are known locally — a group of freakish looking, brightly colored, run-down buildings that were once supposed to become a holiday village — made the headlines recently following the Taipei County Government's decision to demolish them.
Demolition work began on Dec. 29.
“We received an order to tear them down and we plan to finish the job within a month. I have no idea what will happen to the site afterwards,” said a site supervisor, who wished to remain anonymous.
PHOTO: JIMMY CHUANG, TAIPEI TIMES
The UFO houses are situated near the 17km marker of the Tamsui-Jinshan Road (Provincial Highway No. 2). These odd, circular, frisbee-shaped houses remind many people of UFOs, hence the name. Prior to being torn down, the site was often used as a location for photographers because of its unusual atmosphere and beautiful coastal setting.
Taipei County Public Works Bureau Director Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) said that construction work on the compound was never finished and the site has been abandoned for nearly 30 years. The government had no authority to order its demolition as it was owned by the Hung Kuo Group. Hung Kuo's financial problems, however, saw the site's ownership fall into the hands of three different banks.
“We eventually made a deal with the group and decided to tear it down. Hung Kuo and the Taipei County Government will work together to rebuild the site, including the beach front, into a scenic attraction and maybe a resort for tourists,” Lee said.
One of the designers behind the UFO houses spoke exclusively to the Taipei Times. Lin, who only gave his family name, said that there were lots of rumors about the site, but most of them were false.
“First of all, the site is definitely not haunted,” Lin said, in reference to oft-heard rumors that many people have seen ghosts near the complex or the high number of unexplained traffic accidents on the nearby road.
There were also rumors that more than 20,000 skeletons were discovered at the site when construction work began and that it was the scene of several murders.
Lin said that construction of the UFOs began in 1978.
“It is traditional in the construction business to pay your respects to any spirits at the site of a new project before you start work. It had nothing to do with the ghost stories,” Lin said.
Lin, now a freelance interior designer, was working as head of the design department at King Interior Design Co, a subcontractor for Hung Kuo, back in 1989.
Lin said that the original idea for the UFOs came from Sanjhih Township (三芝) plastics manufacturer Yu-chou Co. The first construction license was issued in 1978 and the idea for the design came from Matti Suuronen, an architect from Finland (www.arcspace.com/books/tomorrows_house/), but construction stopped in 1980 when Yu-chou went bankrupt.
Lin said that Hung Kuo had just started running Taipei's Hilton Hotel in 1989 and was looking to extend its tourism business. When Tsai Chin-hsien (蔡錦賢), the president of a local beer house in Tamsui called Haichungtien, proposed continuing with the construction of the UFOs, Hung Kuo offered to back it with NT$800 million (US$24 million) and became the manager of the project.
“They planned to make the compound into a large beer house and resort,” Lin said. “When Tsai took over, he decided to hire King Interior Design Co as the subcontractor and that was when I began to be involved in the project.”
Lin said that after taking over the project, he found that each UFO consisted of a reinforced concrete construction covered by fiber reinforced plastic. Earthquakes could damage such a construction and cause leaks and there was no way to fix such problems.
“We just wanted to finish the construction as soon as possible so we did not redesign or reconstruct the remaining half-completed houses,” Lin said.
He said construction was halted at the end of 1989 because Hung Kuo and Haichungtien had different plans for the compound and failed to reach an agreement.
“Haichungtien was a local business, but Hung Kuo wanted to make the site into an international resort. Unfortunately, the two ideas just did not fit together,” Lin said.
In 1995, Hung Kuo used the land to get loans from three banks because of financial problems, and the compound was left in its present state.
But the site will not lay derelict for much longer, it seems.
The Taipei County Government, according to Tourism and Travel Bureau Director Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠), now has clear plans for the reconstruction of the site.
“With help from the Sanjhih Township Administration Office, we are planning to turn the site into a real tourist attraction by constructing hotels, beach facilities and more,” Chin said.
‘VIRUS DIPLOMACY’: The nation’s expertise in handling COVID-19 was among the reasons that it should not be excluded from the WHO, the European Parliament said The European Parliament this week passed resolutions that support Taiwan’s bid to participate in the WHO and its intention to negotiate a trade pact with Taiwan. During its plenary session from Monday to Thursday, the parliament approved resolutions on the foreign policy consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak and the EU’s trade policy, parts of which were viewed as friendly toward Taiwan by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a statement yesterday, the ministry welcomed the passage of the resolutions and thanked the parliament for its support for Taiwan. In the first resolution, the parliament cited Beijing’s increasing threats to Taiwan, the crackdown on
LOOPHOLES: The people behind biased media content produced by a Chinese network, likely without sending staff to Taiwan, remain anonymous, a source said Beijing’s latest attempt at psychological warfare through heavily biased online media is aimed at sowing discord and polarizing Taiwanese society, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said. The council’s comment came in response to Chinese network Southeast Television, which late last month began broadcasting an online program featuring commentary by Taiwanese unification supporters that authorities suspect was filmed illegally in Taiwan. To circumvent cross-strait regulations, the broadcaster collaborated with online service provider Baidu to air the series titles Diverse Voices From the Taiwan Strait (台海百家說). Only Taiwanese are shown on camera, without revealing the host, interviewer or production team. In one video, political commentator and
SUPPRESSION: Michael Tsai, a former defense minister, said that Beijing’s list of Taiwan independence advocates contravenes the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights The best way to respond to threats from China against Taiwan independence advocates is for the president to publicly reiterate Taiwan’s sovereignty, former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) said on Sunday. Chinese media on Nov. 15 said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was compiling “a list of stubborn Taiwanese separatists and will severely punish them in accordance with [China’s] Anti-Secession Law and hold them accountable for their actions for the rest of their lives.” Chinese media subsequently accused Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) of being a “first-rate war criminal,” because of his policy on mask exports. “The vast majority
A group of overseas Taiwanese in Norway are taking a case on their national identity to the European Court of Human Rights — with plans to file the case in the first half of next year — after Norway’s Supreme Court rejected their appeal to change their listed nationality from “China” to “Taiwan,” Joseph Liu, a Taiwanese lawyer living in Norway, told reporters on Monday. One of the initiators of the movement, “My Name, My Right,” Liu and his group plan to hire lawyers from the UK and France who know European law and have knowledge of Asia to represent them,