Zhongwai Department Store 中外百貨

Irregular facade

Today I went to investigate reports of an abandoned building on the edge of Ximending 西門町, a busy commercial district in central Taipei 台北. It is fairly well-known due to its central location but I could find no easy means of entry for the very same reasons. From this television news report it sounds as if this was originally the Zhongwai Department Store Company 中外百貨公司 and later the Yangyang Department Store 洋洋百貨. While it isn’t surprising to find such ruins around much of Taiwan it is somewhat unusual to see in such a prosperous area. The building is for rent, as I understand it, and much of the aforementioned report seems concerned with the outrageous price tag for such a decaying monstrosity.

Life Is a Gas

Gas tanks in Darong Village

Two weeks ago I noticed this stack of natural gas tanks outside the Fenglin Tobacco Barn 鳳林菸樓 in Darong First Village 大榮一村, one of several sites identified as Tobacco Barn Cultural Settlements 菸樓文化聚落 in the Huadong Valley 花東縱谷. Having spent some time last year exploring remnants of the tobacco industry in Taichung 台中 I figured it might be interesting to sample what might be found out east. I’ll have more to share from that mission at a later date—but for now, these tanks shall serve as a placeholder for future elucidations.

Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院

Yuanlin Hospital in deep afternoon

Despite having spent a lot of time in Yuanlin 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化, Taiwan, I have only recently begun to explore some of its more famous ruins. Among these is Yuanlin Hospital 員林醫院, formally the Changhua County Yuanlin Hospital 彰化縣立員林醫院, originally built in 1963 and operational until the the turn of the millennium. Nowadays it is one of the more notorious abandoned places in central Taiwan, where it is regularly featured in news reports, particularly around Ghost Month 鬼月. Taiwanese media engage in an annual outpouring of overly sensationalized stories about haunted places—and hospitals, as liminal spaces of birth and death, often appear in such reports, complicating research into the real story of what went on.

Inside the Decaying Courtyard

Inside the decaying courtyard

Yesterday I followed a lead to Lanzhou Public Housing 蘭州國宅, a KMT authoritarian era project in central Datong District 大同區, Taipei 台北. It is similar to Nanjichang Community 南機場社區, a far more well-known housing project in Wanhua District 萬華區, but this building was constructed almost ten years later in 1973. As with Nanjichang, its fate also remains unclear, as the city is working through complex land ownership issues to figure out how to move residents into more modern housing. I plan to have a full write-up about this place some day so I’ll leave it at that for now—just a glimpse.

Postcards From Intramuros

The entrance to Fort Santiago

Intramuros (literally “within the walls”) is the former center of Spanish colonial power and the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Located in the heart of old Manila, this fortified district has a long and complicated history stretching back more than four centuries, but little of what remains is original and untouched. Intramuros was heavily damaged during the Japanese invasion in 1941 and almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945. Almost everything seen in my photos was reconstructed beginning in the 1950s and continuing to the present day.

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站 is an abandoned Japanese colonial era railway station located not far from the newly reopened Yuanlin Station 員林車站 in the heart of Yuanlin 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化. It opened in 1933 as a small stop on the now-derelict Yuanlin Line 員林線 of the Taiwan Sugar Railways 臺灣糖業鐵路, which ran due west across the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 for approximately 9 kilometers to the Xihu Sugar Factory 溪湖糖廠 in Xihu 溪湖. Apart from facilitating the transport of sugarcane and other cargo this old wooden station also provided passenger service until it was abolished sometime around 1976.

The Ruins of the Aduana Building

A Spanish colonial building on the edge of Intramuros

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

Fenyuan Town Hall 芬園庄役場

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 芬園, located on the eastern edge of Changhua 彰化 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.

Brutalist Parkade

Stripped down to the core in Caotun

Caoxiedun Public Parkade 草鞋墩公有立體停車場 is an intimidating structure looming over one of the main commercial shopping streets in Caotun 草屯, Taiwan. I was there in search of an abandoned theater but was immediately impressed with the strikingly brutalist design of this multi-storey car park. It is merely a place to park so there’s little more to say, though it would seem that it was recently derelict. Probably the only other tidbit of information worth conveying is that “Caoxiedun” refers to the original name of the town. You can be sure the first settlers never imagined this monument to honest architecture standing in their newly sown fields.