Hotelier pans architectural imitations

NATURAL::Stanley Yen said Taitung’s green landscape is different from that of the Mediterranean islands, and architecture should adapt to the local environment

By Huang Ming-tang and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Aug 02, 2013 - Page 5

A tourism boom on the east coast has led to a mushrooming of garish imitations of Mediterranean architecture, a leading hotelier said.

Landis Taipei Hotel chairman Stanley Yen (嚴長壽) said tourism operators and builders of new lodgings and resorts had overlooked the east coast’s natural green attractions in their misguided copying of foreign architectural styles.

Hualien and Taitung counties, in particular, have seen a flurry of resorts, bed-and-breakfast lodgings and hotels springing up. Most of these new edifices along the seashore try to copy a Mediterranean style, notably the Greek islands with their stucco-style houses and blue rooftops, Yen said at a lecture organized by the Taitung County Industrial Development and Investment Promotion Committee.

Even public constructions have gotten into the act, such as Fongyuan Elementary School in Taitung County. Since its renovation was completed last year, the school has become a popular tourist attraction with its white stucco look, blue rooftop, arched windows and hallways.

Yen deplored these imitations as superficial copying without understanding the essence of these styles.

“People who want to enjoy the romantic setting of the Mediterranean won’t come to Taitung. They’ll go for the real thing — on the Mediterranean coast,” he said.

“Taitung’s green landscape is different from that of the Mediterranean islands and shorelines, where people have developed an architectural style that blends in with the environment. Over there, the windows are small because it is often windy and the buildings had to counter the prevailing winds,” said Yen, who is also the chairman of the Alliance Cultural Foundation.

“Houses in Taitung should have big windows to enjoy the natural breeze,” he said.

“However, builders in Taitung are working against the natural environment, constructing new buildings and resorts in the Mediterranean style, putting up barriers against the wind and then having their guests turn on the air-conditioning,” he said.

“Do not just imitate other countries. We should search for our own special style and character. Here we have mountains and the sea,” he said.

“People in Taitung are known for being friendly and there are many interesting stories about the local people. These are what attract tourists for long stays in Taitung,” Yen said.

In response, Lin Kun-tseng (林坤層), the architect who designed the renovated Fongyuan Elementary School, said most building designs in Taitung are affected by outsides influences because Taitung does not have a strong local architectural style.

“Besides, Fongyuan Elementary School was not designed purely in a Mediterranean style. It also has elements of Chinese architecture and ‘green’ building concepts, so it has both practical and aesthetic values,” he said.

Chen Hui-chuan (陳惠娟), operator of the Fuyue Lodge in Taitung whose building is Mediterranean inspired with white stucco walls and blue windows, said: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

“All my guests say it’s so beautiful when they see the building. And at night, when we turn on the lights, it is even more beautiful,” Chen added.