Beside tranquil Sun MoonLake, the Shuishe Waterfront Park has been transformed into a Zen-style bamboo garden, which in turn cloaks a parking lot below. As people come and go on a path nestled along the water's edge, the light from a restaurant and a hotel on the other side plays off the reflective surface of the lake.
|Japanese architect Norihiko Dan uses a bamboo grove to create a place for meditation while blending his designs with the natural landscape of Sun Moon Lake. (Jimmy Lin)
||Japanese architect Norihiko Dan uses a bamboo grove to create a place for meditation while blending his designs with the natural landscape of Sun Moon Lake. (Jimmy Lin)
As our view shifts to Taiwan's north coast, wondrous landscapes appear out of volcanic rock. The old food stalls are nowhere to be seen and in their place are clusters of shaded rest stops shaped like volcanoes. Throngs of tourists flock in for the local delicacies.
In the future, at Fenchihu on Mt. Ali, from which only two trains depart a day, a wooden suspension bridge will connect with the mountain area's main road and provide a platform for viewing marvelous sunsets. As for the newly redundant central section of the train station, it takes only a little imagination to think of ways to transform it into something more in keeping with the sense of wonder the area inspires.
Don't think that these new marvels appeared out of thin air. They are award-winning designs from the international competition held as part of the government's plans to boost tourism. They are already quietly underway, and in not much more than two years they should appear in their splendor for all to see.
Sun Moon Lake, the north coast and Mt. Ali were once among the most representative of Taiwan's tourist spots. As time went by, however, tired designs, lacking in ingenuity or freshness, lost their sparkle. Not only did international tourists begin to fade away, even great numbers of Taiwanese visitors disappeared.
"In fact, the beauty of Sun Moon Lake is something not found in Japan or mainland China, especially the romantic atmosphere of the fog sleeping on the water's surface in the early morning," says Norihiko Dan, winner of the first prize for his tourist path design for Sun Moon Lake and second prize for his design for another tourist spot on the northern coast. In his 20 years in the industry, he has placed great value on human appeal and environmental protection in his designs. When the Kyoto City Government wanted to construct a large swimming pool, for example, Norihiko Dan was unwilling to simply toss out the earth dug from the site. Instead, he incorporated this precious natural resource into the landscaping of the site, forming aesthetically pleasing hills with greenery.
"A good architect should have respect for nature," says Dan, "and shouldn't be cavalier about architecture's effects on nature."
Under the influence of his father, Ikuma Dan-a well-known composer of symphonic music and operas-Norihiko Dan returned to Japan right after receiving his master's in architecture from Yale to start his own practice, unlike so many architects who stay abroad to get experience with European or American architecture firms.
"The older generation of architects liked to express their foreign designs in Japanese structures," says Dan. "I prefer to start from a local perspective and develop modern architecture that belongs to Japan." Architectural structures, he says, are like urban flowers. If they can't sprout from their own soil, then they can't preserve their own roots, in which case one can only place them in a vase for others to admire, but the lovely sight will last only a few days.
For this year's design competition, Dan made use of similar concepts in his designs. In the redesign plan for Sun Moon Lake, he not only preserved the integrity of the natural environment but also requested that the new tourist center be placed on a secluded road virtually hidden in the natural landscape. When it came to the reconstruction of the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport at Taoyuan, other designers all proposed building a new structure next to the existing terminal. Dan, however, chose to preserve the existing structure and make use of a giant canopy-like roof to extend beyond the original building, greatly expanding the capacity of the terminal and flowing naturally into the parking structures to the sides. The result was a new landscape with a billowing, undulating structure. The roof could even open to reveal the sky above, transforming the terminal into a bamboo garden with all the characteristics of the Asian tropics.
"This old structure that has served well for 30 years has its merits and its value," says Dan. "We can't just get rid of it to create more space. We should preserve and treasure it." As one would expect, his attitude reflects his interest in environmentalism and conservation, as well as his creative impulse-and leaves the rest of us with a sense of wonder.