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The Metropolis of the Future Seems to be Like a Former Navy Bunker in Taipei

The Metropolis of the Future Seems to be Like a Former Navy Bunker in Taipei

2023-12-02 11:25:35

Again in 2016, I wrote an article for How We Get To Subsequent on a casual settlement known as Treasure Hill, in Taiwan, that could possibly be a prototype for the way forward for sustainable city residing. How We Get To Subsequent is still online in archived format, however with bitrot being what it’s, I am additionally reproducing this story right here on my weblog.

On the south aspect of Taipei, nestled within the hills behind the Gongguan Metro Station, is a group with a slightly uncommon historical past. As soon as a navy outpost, it’s now a cluster of grey concrete, crimson brick, and sheet metallic stacked haphazardly, rising some 260 toes (80 meters) above the encompassing metropolis. Steep staircases result in twisting alleyways stuffed with graffiti and complicated sculptures. In a single courtyard, vacationers can typically be seen sitting on a pair of large fortune cookies.

That is Treasure Hill–a prototype for what one architect believes is the way forward for sustainable city residing.


The district started life nearly 100 years in the past as an anti-aircraft place constructed by the occupying Japanese military. After the Japanese give up on the finish of World Battle II, it handed into the fingers of the Kuomintang authorities of China, which maintained it throughout the Chinese Civil War in opposition to the specter of Communist air assaults from the mainland.

A map showing Treasure Hill's location at the northern tip of the island of Taiwan.
Location of Treasure Hill in Taipei. Basemaps: Mapbox

However these assaults by no means got here, and the troopers manning the place started to get bored. Some discovered native wives and had kids, starting to complain that the bunkers beneath the weapons weren’t a nice setting to boost a household.

Over time, the bunkers grew to become the foundations and cellars for a small group of homes, which expanded farther when the federal government determined the location had misplaced its strategic worth and moved the anti-aircraft weapons elsewhere.

The troopers have been ordered to maneuver with the weapons, however many refused–they wished to stick with their households. Different warfare veterans who fled from mainland China joined the group, too. In the meantime, the town of Taipei grew across the hill. The newly unemployed troopers started farming the close by land, in addition to harvesting waste from the town to show it into supplies and vitality.

A view from the top of Treasure Hill, downhill between the houses.
Picture credit score: Jim 陳 // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
People standing on a roof of a home in Treasure Hill.
Picture credit score: Jirka Matousek // CC BY 2.0
A staircase.
Picture credit score: Jan Jörg

For many years this established order held, at the same time as friction grew between the town authorities and the residents of Treasure Hill. Officers noticed it as a slum–its improvised buildings, constructed up through the years amid piles of trash, weren’t solely unpleasant, but additionally in flagrant violation of the town’s security codes. In 2002, the entire settlement was declared unlawful and the authorities started the method of clearing the world and turning it right into a park.

First the town tried to bulldoze the houses across the edges, however the residents simply retreated to the buildings on high of the hill and the decaying bunkers inside, refusing to go away. The authorities then tried to disrupt the group by destroying the bridges and staircases that linked the totally different components of the settlement.

That’s when Marco Casagrande, a Finnish architect, stepped in. The Taipei Metropolis Authorities had requested him to review the “natural layer” of the town and the way they might react to it by the use of city planning. “I came upon that Treasure Hill was really rather more ecological than the trendy metropolis,” he mentioned. “They have been recycling all their natural waste. They have been even filtering water to be reused.”

An alley in Treasure Hill, with steep staircases leading in and out.
Treasure Hill, 2015. Picture credit score: Jim 陳 // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

He persuaded the town to halt the bulldozers and recruited 200 volunteers from the local people to assist him rebuild. “We labored collectively and we remade the farms, rebuilt the connections between homes, and so forth,” he mentioned. “Then rumors began to unfold throughout the town. The media began to comply with us, and when the media got here, the politicians have been subsequent within the ecosystem–the identical individuals who have been destroying it three weeks earlier.”

Sadly, there was nonetheless an issue–the town couldn’t overlook the constructing codes. However Casagrande discovered a loophole: He declared that for the reason that homes had been handmade, they have been a type of artwork. “Town commissioned me to make a public art work, and Treasure Hill is the art work. That’s the place [people] dwell now,” he mentioned. “That’s how they rationalized it.”

In 2010, the town took the mission a step additional–rebranding Treasure Hill as Taipei Artist Village, alongside a number of other sites across the metropolis. In the present day, artists from around the globe can apply for the Treasure Hill Artist-in-Residence program, whereas strolling excursions can be found to information guests round its twisting streets and alleyways.

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“The politicians have been subsequent–the identical individuals who have been destroying it three weeks earlier.”

However Casagrande believes it might probably nonetheless be rather more. “Treasure Hill surfaces lots of the future prospects of environmentally sustainable city residing,” he wrote in 2006 in Taiwan Architect journal. “When the outdated farming-based values of Treasure Hill and people of the encompassing trendy metropolis meet, a brand new form of ecological urbanism is perhaps born.”

A hand-drawn map of Treasure Hill.
Natural Layer, 2003. Picture credit score: Marco Casagrande
A hand-drawn map of Treasure Hill.
Natural Layer, 2003. Picture credit score: Marco Casagrande

“I don’t imply taking steps again technologically. Quite the opposite, I counsel reinforcing the present city farming qualities of the Treasure Hill with state-of-the-art environmental know-how options and so see the Treasure Hill settlement as a residing laboratory of sustainable urbanism. These new applied sciences and options should respect the lifestyle of the Treasure Hill veterans–the lively photo voltaic panels and mechanical organic remedy models of natural waste should make room for the grandmothers.

“The Taipei Metropolis Authorities ought to see the chances in Treasure Hill and react to them. The grandmothers and concrete farming should keep however new environmental applied sciences should even be examined in a approach that may later be multiplied in Taipei and in the remainder of the Taiwanese cities. The options should be site-specific however appropriate environmental know-how options exist already. It is just a query of will to mix these two.”

Treasure Hill in 2014. Picture credit score: Dana Ter
Treasure Hill in 2014. Picture credit score: Dana Ter
Treasure Hill in 2014. Picture credit score: Dana Ter

How We Get To Next was {a magazine} that explored the way forward for science, know-how, and tradition from 2014 to 2019.

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