Friday, October 3, 2008

Model Homes - 樣品屋

No matter how much one loves Taipei, it's nearly impossible to speak favorably about the architecture of most things built there since World War II, most of which can be summed up as being either soulless modernist apartment blocks or gaudy and equally unsightly post-modernist creations. Furthermore, it doesn't help that most non-office buildings are clad in dull ceramic tile to minimize the visible effects of pollution. Perhaps our architecture's greatest fault however, is its lack of originality or boldness. Building designs and layouts are shamelessly recycled (sometimes literally), and this is especially true of residential construction.

There are important and conspicuous exceptions however - they just don't stay around for very long. Taiwanese developers of residential construction have long had a somewhat wasteful habit of building elaborate model home and sales office complexes before tearing them down to replace them with the real thing. This is what these model homes tend to look like:

For as long as I can remember, model home designs have followed a starkly different aesthetic than the prevailing vernacular style. While permanent construction rejects clean white facades and glass walls, model homes never fail to embrace them. The playfulness of their volumes provide sharp contrast with the resolutely boxy towers that inevitably replace them. As a matter of fact, I have never come across a single real building built in "model home" style.

I've long thought that choice of architectural style is symbolic. For example it is a means through which corporations have projected images of themselves to the public - power through height and bulk, transparency and innovation through glass, and many other symbolisms. The same idea rings true for residential styles as well. What has always confused me then is the strange disconnect between the image that developers first present and the image of the final product. One seems to project innovation and creativity, while the other presents anything but. Nonetheless, it's apparently been a very successful model. I have always wondered whether this is a conscious decision, and if so, what in the world the philosophy behind it is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a 62 years transplanted from Taipei to N America 35 years ago so these pictures brought back a lot of memories. I wish someone would do even more research on the architectural history of various building styles as seen in Taipei, though you have given us a good start.

Miss you, Taipei!