The decades-old No. 1 Granary in Taipei’s Songshan District (松山), which was built under the Japanese colonial administration toward the end of World War II, could be given a new life, thanks to a scheme to revive culturally significant properties launched by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs in August.
The program aims to revitalize idle or abandoned historical buildings by inviting private corporations and individuals from the cultural innovation sector to repair the properties and put them to use.
Once renovated, most of these buildings would be used by the cultural industry. They cannot be used as private homes.
Hidden away in an alley near the Breeze Center on Fuxing S Road, the 200 ping (660m2) brick and cypress-beam granary was constructed to serve as the primary wartime emergency grain storage facility in the city.
Construction of the granary seemed imperative at the time, particularly when Taipei could be at risk of food shortages in the event of US military strikes on Taipei Bridge, a vital link between Taipei and what is now known as New Taipei City (新北市).
The granary was outfitted with three doorways emblazoned with the word “No Fireworks” and was built with a high ceiling and a number of small windows to facilitate ventilation and ward off mildew.
Designated by the Department of Cultural Affairs as a cultural heritage site in February last year, the granary still bears the scars of World War II, as evidenced by the many shrapnel and bullet holes left by the US military during air raids.
While the exterior has suffered greatly over the years, the interior has been preserved in good condition.
“There are not many old buildings left in the city that share a similar architectural design with the No. 1 Granary,” the department said.
Former granary administrator Yao Mu-sen (姚木森), who served in the Taipei Administration of the Taiwan Provincial Government’s Food Bureau — the predecessor of the Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency — before being transferred to a managerial post at the granary in 1957, praised the effort to find new uses for historic buildings.
“While I support the city government’s cultural revitalization plan for old houses, it would be better if repair and renovation works could focus mainly on the interior and not make major changes to the building itself,” Yao said, adding that the granary was later used to store burlap grain sacks.