huashan 1914 creative park
for years, it hid in plain sight in a prominent district of taipei that’s named after their venerated late president chiang kai-shek. built in 1914 and opened two years later as taipei winery, the japanese-era complex languished in abandonment after the factory moved outside of the city.
it was a good decade later, in 1997, before the building was discovered by a group of thespians, who were drawn to the spatial generosity of the well-preserved industrial architecture and promptly converted the space into a performance venue. authorities began taking notice and restored the former winery, by then fairly derelict, into its former structural glory and repurposed into an arts and cultural centre.
where once grains and grapes were mulled into sakes and wines, today specialty boutiques selling locally-designed goods and trendy cafes foster an appreciation for taiwanese creativity. on fair weather days, working folks from the surrounding offices fill up the front lawn during their lunch breaks while on weekends, artistic events draw steady streams of visitors. the annual simple festival arts and crafts market by local artisans is one of its biggest crowd-pullers.
highlights catch independent flicks and award-winning films at spot-huashan cinema, after which you can discuss the merits of the movies over food and drinks at cafe lumiere or nestle into a cosy nook at liblab, a bookstore that boasts a well-lit salon setting, and escape into a world crafted by printed words.
> no 1, bade road section 1, zhongzheng district, taipei opens 10am-9pm www.huashan1914.com/en/index.html
songshan cultural and creative park
like huashan, this two-year-old arts enclave was converted from a former factory (matsuyama tobacco plant) that once produced over two billion cigarettes each year. built in 1937 as an industrial village, there were landscaped courtyards where factory workers could seek respite in between running the production lines, and there was even a nursery where employees could leave their children while they completed their shifts.
the beautifully preserved buildings, boasting japanese early modernism styles, have been incarnated into exhibition spaces, art galleries as well as venues for musical showcases and various expressions of creativity. the taiwan design museum is housed here and is hosting an exhibition of over 1,000 classic bags from asia, while the red dot museum showcases award-winning ideas by taiwanese designers.
for book and magazine lovers, not just library offers more than 20,000 titles or if music is more your cup of tea, the old nursery now hosts a music-themed cafe with a stunning book-lined feature wall crowned by timber eaves. at design pin, you can browse and buy products by taiwanese and japanese designers that have won either the golden pin design or good design awards.
the village’s original baroque gardens, complete with fountains and nude statues, is a peaceful spot to catch a breather and be transported to a bygone era. cocktail parties and banquets can be hosted here too.
highlights fronting the old nursery, what used to be a lotus pond that was meant as a safety measure – for fire extinguishing and ventilation – has been repurposed into an ecology pond that supports flora and small fauna such as insects and frogs. on one side of the pond, wooden decks built around existing trees provide visitors a lookout point towards the little green lung, with the skyline of xinyi district as the backdrop.
> guangfu south road, xinyi district, taipei opens 8am-10pm daily (park); indoor spaces usually open from 9am-6pm www.songshanculturalpark.org (website is currently in chinese only)
they may be best known for their 24-hour bookstore in taipei’s dunhua south road, but it’s their spectrum songyan outlet that provides the total eslite experience. in a 14-storey curved building designed by japanese architect toyo ito and located adjacent to songshan, eslite fits in a shopping mall, performance hall, office lots, art house and a 140-room boutique hotel.
the mall is a refreshing departure from taipei’s usual retail complexes, eschewing the typical international names and fashion labels but instead, fills up four floors with a gamut of offerings from local lifestyle brands. from apparel to home decor, food to skincare, the products speak of distinctive taiwanese aesthetic values: cutting-edge chic and minimalist with hints of cheeky fun.
browse through the displays and you will get a good picture of the inspirations and influences that taiwan’s designers draw upon. there is great respect for their history and heritage, as seen in brands that have evolved quintessential items like tea, rice and alisan-grown coffee from pastoral to artisanal.
spectrum is not just a shopping stop but a showcase of the country’s best crafts and craftsmen. it is also a manifestation of eslite’s philosophy towards the arts, which have seen the setting up of its foundation for culture and arts.
the company, listed in the top 100 taiwan brands in the cultural creative services category, has also set up expo (eslite x platform original) to support small-scale businesses, creating an avenue to bring their art to a larger audience and promoting what they term “cultural and creative consumerism”. expo has a presence at spectrum as well as several other eslite stores, including in taichung and tainan.
highlights at living project, housed on level two of the mall, you can sign up for workshops and classes on a variety of arts and handmade goods. want a meaningful souvenir of your visit to taipei? it doesn’t get more authentic than this.
> 88 yanchang road, xinyi district, taipei opens 11am-10pm daily (store and performance hall) www.eslitecorp.com