back when i still lived in lukang, one of the neighborhood uncles attempted to describe taiwanese domestic architecture to me. he said,
no matter how big the builders make it, you discover that the house will never have enough room. because once taiwanese people move in, they will add window cages and, of course, they’ve got to put a metal siding structure on top of the roof
the uncle was joking but at the same time pointing out something that he found a real aesthetic flaw among taiwanese people. i will try to avoid making such judgments (even as i present them)
like commercial architectures in urban taiwan, domestic architecture in taipei depends a great deal on surfacing
older brick and timber structures, now a relative rarity in taipei, are often surfaced with plaster, concrete, and the ubiquitous metal siding. and of course, metal siding appears in countless add-ons: as roofing, enclosures, rooftop additions, and supplemental covering over leaking concrete roofs
and how could we talk about domestic architecture in urban taiwan without mentioning tile?
for a country that prides itself on its friendliness to outsiders, hospitality, and openness, taiwan presents a surprisingly unfriendly and closed off face in much of its urban domestic architecture
once one leaves major commercial streets for residential lanes and alleys, tall walls–often topped with bars, concertina wire, and broken bottles for added deterrence–shout “keep away” to the passerby. added to the narrowness of these urban lanes, the walls feel as if they lean in and push a would be flaneur on. but don’t worry–there’s not much to see here anyway. or is there?
often when someone says something ignorant, i just want to let it go. after all, it’s really not my purpose in life to enlighten people, particularly so-called expats with colonialist attitudes
but this time, the ignorant remark about taiwan “having no architecture” stayed with me. for a couple weeks, this remark continued to annoy me, like a pebble in my shoe. i decided to shake it out and make some sort of reply–and well, as you all know, my research interests include vernacular domestic architecture