MOTIF: The land art (site1) and Flora Exposition (site2) discloses the diverse reality of Taiwan. Combining agricultural cultivation and aesthetics of space, the planting design simulates the processes of plants at different altitudes. It is the most diverse miniature landscape in Taiwan. Meeting with Miniature Landscape, the Blossoming of Human Consciousness. With its tall mountains and lush forests, Taiwan has been called the beautiful island (Il Formosa) since the Spanish people “discovered” it in the seventeenth century. The topography of Taiwan boasts the concentration of 200 mountains over 3,000 meter in height. Within the jurisdiction of Taichung City, we see an eclectic collection of the tall Snow Mountain, mid- to low-altitude Dong-shi Forest, the plain metropolis, and the Kao-mei Wetland at the estuary. Within this variety of topography and climate zones are the abundant floral diversity. There are more than 5,000 native plants and 700 ferns. Even the New Zealand, whose uses ferns as their national flag, has only 170 native plants. The agricultural improvement and domestication of a variety of species at different topography and climate diversity is a soft manifestation of the national power momentums in Taiwan. The juxtaposition of plants from different altitudes is also the main theme of the Forest Area at the Taichung World Flora Exposition.
We expect that the Forest constructed according to the seasonal changes in Houli area will be kept intact afterwards to achieve the goal of minimum maintenance and management; 30% is done by the curating and the remaining 70% are done through Mother Nature, accomplishing the goal that all plants coexisting with the landscapes there. It will become a living park for 10 year, 20 years or even 100 years, and eventually a botanical garden with real natural landscape. This Forest is the only and the largest botanical garden that is a miniature of plants from 5 climatic zones: temperate zone, warm-temperature zone, the subtropics, rainforest and the tropics, exhibiting the 100-year living landscape in Taiwan. Listen intently to the blooming sounds, the blooming sounds of human consciousness. During the exhibition period, the number of visitors exceeded 6.5 million in six months.
Spanning the six months after opening, the Floral Exposition starts at the plaza in front of Taichung Railway Station. The main theme of the exhibition is the common yet precious herbs. The truss system hanging over it traces the contour of Taiwan, undulating terrains, like the atlas of Taiwanese weeds, presenting ever-changing shapes as the trains move. Intersecting with the planting design, the truss system of the winter house crystalizes the agricultural technology and becomes the spatial device standing in harmony with natural beauty. The energized grasses and flowers follow the undulating structure of the truss. The lush greenery is indeed the result of careful arrangement. The changing heights of the plants suggest the steep terrain of the island with its planted communities at the higher, middle, and lower altitudes as well as the estuary. Together they constitute the layering of visions and circulations. Strolling about the place, one is inspired by the experiences of walking in the planted form of the forest. During the night, the projected light beams fuse with the constructed form of the landscape. Light demarcates the darkness with visible yet intangible. As the mist gathers in the air, it also moisturizes the plants on the earth and soften the technological light beams. The plasticity turns into a new formation of organic nature. The changing natures of mist and light intersect with the other, revealing the undulating contour of Taiwan underneath. The light beams extend into the darkness like a levitating sculpture, casting on the plants like the florescent lights in the forest. The unique landform of the mountain, ocean, and the woodlands recount the neverending stories of the Taiwan island.
The 15-hectare Houli Forest Campus is built on an existing lush woodland. The existing vegetation of camphors, bead trees, banyan trees, and formosan sweet gum is preserved and becomes the stage for the plants of the Flora Exhibition. The scattered herbal and bush plants constitute the miniature landscape of the mountainous country. The Formosan plants welcome visitors to the gardens that represent twentieth eight different countries.
A garden within the wilderness; wilderness within a garden; suitable plants for the land and the season. As the season changes, rich and colourful transformation unfolds naturally. All species breed and alternate over and over, evolving into urban playgrounds and garden nursery compounds of Taiwan; and fast becoming the living indigenous plant maps on the educational front! When doing planting design, instead of coming up with topics that are a flash in the pan or flashy designs that incorporate various kinds of flowers, we aim to exhibit faithfully the real landscapes of Taiwan. In the process, the selection and acquirement of plant species are the biggest challenges for our team. Fortunately, there is a database with more than 10.000 varieties of indigenous species available so that we may find high-mountain plants that are already adapted to flatlands or plant species of mid-to-high altitude that are cultivated to adapt to flatlands. We are constantly attracted to Japanese silver grass or wildflowers and weeds grown abundantly in the wilderness while camping in the wilderness or mountain climbing in Taiwan; even when working on other projects, we would use abundant plants of Gramineae (Poaceae) family, and perennial plants, and value-added grass such as Pennisetum alopecuroides to let these wild plants flourish abundantly. Actually, most of these plants can be found dancing to breezes of wind in most of the wilderness, by rivers, or sea-sides in Taiwan. Such wilderness touches are one of the valuable aspects of Taiwan. One of the challenges we encountered in Flora Exposition is to help the general public overcome their unease with wild flower designs such as Pennisetum alopecuroides and Imperata cylindrica.
3,000 M ─ Foggy Forest in Mid-to-High Elevation
Simulating the high mountain landscape of 2500 m above. Growing on the rising, somewhat climbing terrain is mid-range-altitude spices that are either accustomed to flat lands or cultivated and adapted to flat-land climate, of which Yushania niitakayamensis is the most representative species, scattering mostly on the sunny southern mountain slopes.
2,500 M ─ Foggy Forest in Mid-to-High Elevation
There are many pre-existing, natural landslide areas in the indigenous forests of Taiwan, stemming from, perhaps after deforestation or being damaged by natural fire. Then quietly weeds or bushes started to appear, followed by flourishing growing in succession period by the likes of Alnus formosana, Yushania niitakayamensis and Miscanthus sinensis, all waving with the wind. Transmorrisonensis under the trees where Rhododendron rubropilosum and Pieris taiwanensis hold court, with time gone by, a full-fledged, mature forest is coming into being, thus the making of a “real-life forest story”.
1,500~2,500 M ─ Quercus Zone Stands in Mid-Elevation
Quercus zone in the mountains of central Taiwan are usually found in the area of 1500-2500 m altitude; the upper zone is coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest.
500~1,500 M ─ Machilus-Castanopsis Zone in Mid-to-Low Elevation
Along the trail onto a humid and warm undergrowth forest area mainly dominated by broad-leaved forest of Machilus-Casanopsis zone that is lush and of high degree close-off. Saplings grow slowly in this area and in low-mid altitude area, comprised of 5 major Formosa broad-leaved trees. By consciously simulating a forest in process of succession, debris-trapping ferns such as Pyrrosia adnascens and large-sized ferns such as Cyathea lepifera are evident also; in addition, in mid-attitude area, the activities of indigenous people play an important role thanks in part to their use of indigenous plants for building their house and feasting on Diplazium esculentum and Pteris fauriei, thus fully demonstrating their wisdom of mountain living.
20~500 M ─ Ficus-Machilus Zone in Low Elevation
Ficus-Machilus forest is found in area under 500 m altitude in central Taiwan; in southern Taiwan where tropic of cancer passes, Ficus – Machilus forest can be found in area under 700 m altitudes. This area is also where most people live. The environment is warm and humid and after countless immigration and colonisation, human activities have impacted greatly on the indigenous plants in this area and plants started to adapt which is the reason why this area is the most colourful and diverse in terms of its ground cover, flowers and plants.
0~20M ─ Rivers, Sea-sides and Gravel lands
At the end of the park is rivers, sea-sides, estuaries and gravel lands commonly found in western Taiwan. Plants of Gramineae (Poaceae) family that are resilient and very adaptive are commonly grown in this area for they can adapt to dry sand lands and their strong roots help protect the soil. Phragmites australis, Saccharum spontaneum and Miscanthus floridulus are the so-called dominant species grown by rivers and sea-sides.
On the whole, the traces of planting designs in the Forest are not obvious yet they demonstrate clearly & loudly and sincerely why the designer started his/her career in the first place. In spite of the fact that the exposition held in fall and winter, and some flowers failed bloom, but plants are like our lives – they blossom and wither eventually – this is our core idea for the design as well as our long-term expectation for the Forest. Most of the plants in the Forest of Taichung World Flora Exposition are perennial woody plants, improved grass used in animal agriculture, alpine plants that are cultivated to adapt to the weather of flat lands or foreign flowers that grow flourishingly in Taiwan, thus “natural succession” rules the Forest. As a result the needs to change plants, maintenance and management as well as trimming are reduced to the minimum; the water for irrigation comes from the detention pound, recycled underground rainfall and tap water; before planting, organic fertilizers are mixed in the soils to ensure sufficient nutrients for the plants. The Garden is about respecting the environment and cherishing the resources on earth. There is an uncultivated land in the garden that allows plants to breed and grow freely. No fertilizers, no irrigation, no weeding, and yet it is full of life!
Landscape Architects: MOTIF
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Originator Lighting Design Consultant, Chou Lien(Lighting Design), Botanical Garden of National Museum of Nature Science
Project location: Dashan Rd., Houli Dist., Taichung City 421, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Design year: 2017-2018
Year Built: 2018