Friday, February 13, 2009

FuTai Street Villa (撫台街洋樓), Taipei

The FuTai Street Villa (撫台街洋樓), contrary to what its name might suggest, is found today at no. 26, YanPing South Road (延平南路) in Taipei's ZhongZheng district, one of the main thoroughfares of the city's colonial-era hub. According to the City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the structure was completed c. 1910, and housed offices and a storefront for a Japanese liquor boutique. The building's design presents an exceptional juxtaposition of 19th century French villa-inspired composition with a sidewalk arcade typical of vernacular commercial buildings in Taiwan. It also seems to be the only colonial-era structure that remains on the street.

Its immaculate appearance however, hides a fairly turbulent history. Following the end of Japanese occupation, the property was seized by the Nationalist government's Ministry of Defense, and mostly left vacant for half a century. It was not until 1997 that the FuTai Street Villa was designated historic by the city government, launching a historic preservation battle with the Ministry of Defense that would last nearly a decade. In 2002, the building fell victim to an act of arson which caused most of the upper floors to collapse (though its masonry was thankfully salvable, along with its building plans). As if that were not bad enough, the Ministry provoked greater anger and legal opposition when it attempted to auction off the damaged property.

Ultimately, the preservationists emerged victorious, as reconstruction and renovation of the damaged structure began in 2006, presumably under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense. Work was completed in early 2008, and the building has been designated as the future site of the Taipei Film Center (台北攝影中心). As to how far those plans have progressed, I am yet uninformed.

Note: If anyone is more informed about this building than I am, please correct me since I might very well have misunderstood something during the course of my research.


No comments: