Much has been made Taipei’s dull built environment and supposed lack of attractions. The criticism is as uninformed as it is misleading, for among Asia’s glittering cohort of dragon cities, the Taiwanese capital stands out for its unalloyed potential. All that’s required is a little strategic digging and scraping to get below the metropolis’ skin.
Based on our recent visit, we are pleased to report that there is much to admire about Taipei, and plenty of reasons to swing by. There is a heady sense of optimism in the air – perhaps best experienced from the dizzying heights of the W Taipei’s Bar at Yen, looking out over the city’s myriad skyscrapers and ever-expanding greenery.
On the streets, ideally explored on a carbon-neutral bicycle, a brave new generation of architects, property developers and urban planners is striving to spruce up dilapidated spaces and buildings, turning them into new cultural centres. Also breaking new ground are ambitious towers and building projects designed by both local and overseas architects such as Kris Yao, Fumihiko Maki, Toyo Ito and Marco Casagrande.
Similarly, a returning diaspora of well-educated graphic and industrial designers, fashion mavens and entrepreneurs works hard alongside young émigrés from America and Europe to weave fresh ideas and new patterns into the city’s social and creative fabric.
This admirable agility to blend past, present and future is something that seems to come naturally to the Taiwanese. Their beloved tea ceremonies, for instance, may be steeped in tradition, but the tea itself is fabulously packaged. And when even ancient Ming chairs can be reimagined in bright red plastic, you know these are interesting times to be in Taipei.
Yes, there is every reason to applaud the city’s incredible journey from regional backwater to 21st-century metropolis, but it’s equally clear that Taipei still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.