Toubiankeng Police Station (頭汴坑警察官吏派出所) is a remarkably well-preserved Japanese colonial era building situated in a small settlement in the foothills of eastern Taichung, Taiwan. Originally established in 1914, the station was reconstructed to standard specifications with reinforced concrete, red brick, and local cypress, likely in the early 1930s. Not only was it a police station, but it also served as a dormitory for the officers stationed here, agents of a colonial authority keen to extend control into the rugged mountains to the east. After the ROC assumed control of Taiwan operations continued much as before, and was only decommissioned in 1981 when a new police station was built immediately out front.
Yuanlin Credit Union 員林信用合作社 was a small town bank from Yuanlin, Taiwan, that went out of business at the turn of the century. It originated with a Japanese colonial era credit union founded in 1914 and based out of a long-vanished red brick building directly across from Yuanlin Station 員林車站, a plot of land now occupied by the doomed Golden Empire Building 黃金帝國大樓. In the post-war chaos the original credit union was renamed and reorganized several times, eventually giving birth to the credit union that constructed this particular branch, possibly in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
People’s Park In The Sky is a peculiar attraction located about 60 kilometers south of Manila in Tagaytay, a popular leisure destination in the province of Cavite in the Philippines. Perched on top of Mount Sungay at an elevation of 709 meters, the highest point on the northern rim of the immense Taal Caldera, it was originally planned to be a palace suitable for state visits during the kleptocratic reign of Ferdinand Marcos. Construction began in 1979 with a drastic leveling of the mountaintop, which previously reached 759 meters, but ground to a halt with increasing civic unrest and the cancellation of Ronald Reagan’s state visit in 1983. Following the People Power Revolution of 1986 the unfinished mansion was transformed into a public park and monument to the greed, corruption, and excess of the Marcos era.
Ershui Assembly Hall 二水公會堂 is located in Ershui, a small town at the very southern edge of Changhua, on the border with both Yunlin (to the south) and Nantou (to the east). It is one of approximately 70 assembly halls built all around Taiwan to accommodate large public gatherings during the Japanese colonial era. This particular example was built in 1930 and is one of three remaining in Changhua. The other two—in Changhua City and Lukang—are both fully restored heritage properties open to the public, but the smaller Ershui Assembly Hall has been derelict for years, a consequence of a long-running legal dispute between the landlord and local government complicating preservation efforts.
The Aduana Building, also known as the Intendencia, is located just outside the walls of Intramuros, the historic center of Spanish colonial Manila. Originally built as a customs house in the 1820s, it has undergone several cycles of destruction and renewal starting in 1863, when the building was almost completely destroyed by the same strong earthquake that leveled much of the old city. Rebuilt in the mid-1870s, it served various government functions—office of the National Archives, first home of the Philippines Senate, and again the Bureau of Customs—before it was ravaged during the initial and final bombing campaigns of World War II. After reconstruction it again served as the offices of different government agencies before it was finally abandoned following a devastating fire in 1979. Restoration plans have been floated since the 1990s but as of late 2015, when I wandered by, the Aduana Building remains in ruin.
Fenyuan Town Hall (芬園庄役場) is another example of neglected Japanese colonial era architecture in Taiwan. Built in 1935, this modest building was the administrative center of the village of Fenyuan, located on the eastern edge of Changhua back when it was part of Taichu Prefecture (臺中州). It survived the war and remained in use until 1994 when a newer town hall was built down the street. Art Deco flourishes and the rust-colored emblem over the entrance give Fenyuan’s old town hall a distinctive look. Nowadays it is derelict—but it seems likely that it will be restored and opened to the public some day.
This week I visited the small town of Xizhou in southern Changhua to locate the eponymous Xizhou Theater. I found no way into the theater but made a serendipitous discovery while walking around the block in search of another access point. Across the street I noticed the utilitarian outline of the former Xizhou Telecom Bureau (溪州原電信局), a modest building that once housed a combined post office and service counter for the state phone company, then known as the [Directorate General of Telecommunications (交通部電信總局). The sign above the entrance simply reads Dianxinju (電信局), or “telecommunications bureau”, which is all anyone needed to know in those days. Taiwan’s telecom monopoly was broken up in 1996 with the privatization of what became known as Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信). In the absence of any sort of historic information about this obscure abandoned office I’d guess it was built sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Wuri Police Station 烏日警察官吏派出所 is a historic Japanese colonial era building dating back to the early 1930s. Located in Wuri, Taichung, it was built in a simple, subdued style with more of a nod toward Rationalism than the localized Art Deco or Baroque Revival styles commonly seen in commercial and institutional architecture of Showa period Taiwan. After the station was decommissioned in the late 1960s it was used for residential purposes until it was ultimately abandoned for unknown reasons. Historic status was announced in 2004 and officially confirmed in 2013 but restoration efforts were stuck in the planning stages until 2020.
One of the more peculiar ruins I’ve seen in Taiwan was a building immediately across from the Control Yuan (監察院), one of the five branches of government, on Zhongxiao West Road (忠孝西路). It was inaugurated as the second home of the Taipei City Council (台北市議會) in 1964 after moving from nearby Zhongshan Hall (中山堂). In 1990 the city council relocated to its present base in Xinyi and the building was converted into a police station before being completely abandoned in 2007. Despite this the building continued to be known as the Second Taipei City Council Building (第二台北市議會大廈).