I played with Legos until I was like… 12. And honestly, if those boujee Lego architecture kits weren’t like $100 dollars, I’d own all of them by now. I always wanted to be an architect. It’s just that I can’t draw or do math. What I can do, however, is be very opinionated. So this week, I’m going to talk about “The Top 5 Buildings I Regularly Encounter in the Da’an District” I don’t care if I’m not qualified. Just let me live my Inga Saffron fantasy.
5) Taipower Building, Da’an District, 1982.
I see this building when I’m buying overpriced pastries at the nice bakery across the street. The main structure is 27 floors. It was the tallest building in Taipei at the time of its construction at 114.54 meters. The building itself is a rather unimpressive mass of beige tiles with uniform windows. The design evokes an overwhelming sense of boredom and sameness, only to be interrupted by an undersized “artwork” facing the street. Most of the street lights featured in on this pimple-like protrusion don’t even look like they belong in Taipei. Definitely an afterthought added by corporate to make the building seem more “fun”. This is exactly what I would expect the headquarters of a national power company to look like, and I appreciate that.
4) Floriculture Hall, NTU Main Campus, 1990.
I see this building when I’m running my campus 5K route. The main structure is four floors. The top floor, and the area adjacent to the building feature green houses. Long ivy grows from the exposed concrete beams. These exposed beams are likely ornamental but evoke images of old farmhouses and barns. The post-modern collegiate brick style fits in well on campus, as most buildings are built in this style. But the clean lines, separate masses, and mature greenery set it apart. My only complaints are that the huge beams are home to a huge spider, and the façade is not real brick but brick tile over concrete/cinder block.
3) 1st Administration Building, NTU Main Campus, 1926, 1970s.
I see this building every morning on my way to class in the much less aesthetically pleasing Common Subjects Classroom Building. Imperial Japanese Neoclassical Architecture is my thing. The Corinthian columns are beautifully detailed and fit with true neoclassical style, while the overlaid hip tile roof remind us of the Japanese influence. The large windows and open interior provide enough natural light that most of the internal lights aren’t used during the day. The window detailing and red brick help to liven up the façade. An addition was built around the back in the 70s. The addition did not try to replicate the existing structure, but the brick, arches around windows, and color palette pay homage to and do not detract from the existing design.
2) 37 Section 3 Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Date Unknown.
This building is one of the expensive high rises that overlook Da’an Park, but it’s not just another bland, overgrown condo complex. 16 floors tall and the width of a standard flat, this slim tower is just slightly taller than its neighbors, and the small foot print prevents the structure from looking out of scale. The façade is made up of blue glass tiles that blend with the balconies and provide shading for the windows. These glass pieces slowly taper off towards the top of the building which gives the illusion that the building is shorter than it actually is. But what I like most about this building is how it’s not just another tower of beige, just waiting to be resold. The building has a thoughtful, unique design and approaches architecture as something that the observer and the owner can enjoy, instead of just being another commodified living space.
1) Huai-en Hall, Grace Baptist Church, Da’an District, 1984
This building is a beautiful monstrosity right across the street from campus. It’s a Baptist Church reimagined as a postmodern Asian temple. The steep hip roof with ornamented joints, the tiger door handles, and color palette are all reminiscent of traditional temple architecture; however, the choice of small tiles and minimal ornamentation give the building a more modern feel. Moreover, the proportion of the faux steeple and roof line is a nod to western religious architecture. This church uses the visual cues of historic religious architecture to communicate with the public that it’s a religious institution –using the familiar to introduce the unfamiliar—and unabashedly makes a statement about religious culture in Taiwan.
These are my favorite buildings in my neighborhood. I see them all at least twice a week, if not daily, so I’ve had a long time to think about them. They might not all be the prettiest, but they’re the ones that speak to me. The ones that keep me up at night. The buildings that have some sort of idea, albeit sometimes ill-informed idea, behind them.
Stay tuned for when I break down “Top 5 Worst Buildings I Regularly Encounter in the Da’an District”