taiwan has no architecture (6): the add on

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)

Continue reading “taiwan has no architecture (6): the add on”

the architecture of making do (5): surfaces

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?

Continue reading “the architecture of making do (5): surfaces”

the architecture of making do (4): window cages

superficial viewers of taipei’s urban architectures often express curiosity about the prevalence of window cages

why, these visitors ask, are there bars around windows on the seventh floor? are taipei people that afraid of theft?

(in these moments i must remind myself not to roll my eyes or to say, clearly you’ve never made any friends here)

for those who wonder about the window cages, let’s take a closer look

window cages create extra space, particularly for those who lack a porch or balcony
window cages create extra space, particularly for those who lack a porch or balcony

Continue reading “the architecture of making do (4): window cages”

taiwan has no architecture? (3): architectures of exclusion

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?

Continue reading “taiwan has no architecture? (3): architectures of exclusion”

taiwan has no architecture? (2): covered walkways

in the last installment of this series, i kvetched a bit about people who complain that taiwan has no architecture. in response, in this series of blog posts will look at what i call the architecture of making do–mostly the kind of vernacular architecture that one sees in the alleys of taipei and other urban areas on taiwan

however, i thought that i should begin with the most public and characteristic feature of taiwanese urban spaces, the architecture of covered pedestrian walkways 騎樓 cilou (also known as 亭仔腳 teng-a ka) found on major commercial thoroughfares Continue reading “taiwan has no architecture? (2): covered walkways”

taiwan “doesn’t have architecture?”


an architecture of making do

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

Continue reading “taiwan “doesn’t have architecture?””