Mon, Dec 28, 2009 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: The helmsman who shaped the style of Taipei City

BRINGING DIVERSITYA graduate of Tokyo Imperial University, architect Matsunosuke Moriyama traveled to Taiwan in 1907 and his work helped define Taiwan's architecture

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Matsunosuke Moriyama-landscaped garden of the Taipei Guest House is shown in this undated picture.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ACADEMIA HISTORICA

Not many people know the name of Japanese architect Matsunosuke Moriyama, but they have all seen his works — whether it is the Presidential Office, the Taipei Guest House, the Control Yuan building or the headquarters of Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp.

The Presidential Office and the Taipei Guest House are the two projects that best represent Moriyama’s works, said the researchers of the book Foreigner in Formosa (異人的足跡), published by the Academia Historica, who revisited the works and life of Moriyama and credited him “the helmsman who shaped the style of public buildings in Taipei.”

The Presidential Office was originally the Taiwan Governor General’s Office during the Japanese colonial era, while the Taipei Guest House was the governor general’s residence.

Huang Chun-ming (黃俊銘), architecture professor at Chung Yuan Christian University, said the location of the Governor General’s Office was determined in 1900, when the Japanese colonial government laid out its first urban planning design for Taipei.

“In the plan, the office faced directly at the Jingfumen (景福門), the East Town Gate built in the Qing Dynasty,” Huang said. “In between the gate and the Governor General’s Office was a large avenue, which is now Ketagalan Boulevard. You can see all the way from Jingfumen to the entrance hall [of the Presidential Office].”

The construction of the Governor General’s Office began in 1912 and it was completed in 1919. For the project, the colonial government held a competition to solicit draft plans from architects. The one pitched by Moriyama was not selected. Instead, the colonial government chose one submitted by Uheijui Nagano, another Japanese architect.

Moriyama later became construction division director at the Governor General’s Office site. He modified Nagano’s original design by adding a 60m-tall tower on the top of the office building, which was viewed by many as an important symbol of Japanese rule.

Huang said Moriyama preferred baroque architecture, which explained the magnificent decorations in the entrance hall.

The Governor General’s Office was later bombed by the US Air Force during World War II. The pillars in the entrance hall were destroyed in the air raid. Nevertheless, one can still see the pedestals of the double-column pillars in the entrance hall today.

The West Wing of the Presidential Office, on the other hand, is the only part of the building that was not damaged during the war.

As smoking was prohibited in most of the Governor General’s Office, Huang said smoking lounges were built on the four corners of the building, adding that they also helped turn the building into a structure that could withstand earthquakes.

Hsueh Chin (薛琴), another professor of architecture at Chung Yuan Christian University, traced the history of the Taipei Guest House and found a rather controversial past during the colonial era.

“The proposal for building the governor general’s residence generated quite a debate at the Imperial Diet in Japan,” Hsueh said. “Back then, Taiwan still needed to be subsidized by Japan, but Taiwan’s governor general wanted to live in a house that was more grandiose than the Imperial Palace of Japan. This sounded ridiculous to members of parliament.”

Shinpei Goto, then head of the civilian affairs bureau, defended the construction, saying: “How can royalty gain the respect of the people if people do not know the kind of places royalty lives?”

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