The jury was impressed by this subtle an elegant physical transformation that is at the same time bold in its colour and scale. A generous covering of the central courtyard reveals a whole new dimension of this tourist centre and of the overall spatial context. The jurors specifically appreciated the way in which the shape of the roof channels the rainfall and thus allows for the emergence of the entrance ‘garden’.See all LILA recognitions or visit LILA website
The project is located in the heart of a tropical mountain region, between Taipei and the Pacific, in the northeast of Taiwan.
There, the geomorphology is extremely complex. On its very steep slopes, the heavy rainfall causes large-scale erosions. Human installations and infrastructures are thus exposed to constant risks of flooding, rockslides or landslides.
However, this region has been inhabited and crossed for centuries. From the beginning of the 19th century, the network of aboriginal trails was supplemented by the great paths of Tamsui-Kavalan, taken by Mandarins, missionaries and naturalists from all over the world, who came to study rare plants and insects. Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, a colossal network of railways was built by the Japanese colonial administration to transport the abundant coal produced in the surrounding mines to the large ports of Keelung and Taipei.
At the end of the 20th century, the mines closed.
The enhancement of this heritage of abandoned industrial infrastructures located in a spectacular landscape of mountains, gorges and waterfalls, becomes the main asset to revitalize a region hit by the disappearance of the coal industry.
The New Taipei Municipality is initiating a program to network abandoned industrial sites and old historic paths and roads.
The restructuring of a small unsuitable tourist reception building, located in HOUTONG as its interpretative content is part of this program.
The old reception building, built against the side of the mountain, forms a U around a central courtyard and to which it nevertheless turns its back.
In response to the competition, we took a radical option, the opposite of the existing one : create a “hall”, a welcoming covered shelter, open on all sides to let the sun light and the landscape penetrate.
The proposal is clear: to unite the built U with the central courtyard and form a single space where the interior and the exterior merge, where the air and the views circulate, where the position of the building between the foot of the mountain and the bottom of the valley is perceptible.
Therefore, it was necessary to completely strip the building, leaving only the load-bearing structure: the posts and the framework of the roof.
The new roof, in fabric, rests on the structure of the old one, stretches on the sides, relaxes and falls asleep in the center.
It protects against rain and sun, the building interiors and visitors.
At the entrance, facing the car park, it lowers almost to the ground, revealing and hiding at the same time. The openings on the sides invite entry, the semi-closure in the center allows a certain intimacy of the patio.
The red color of the canvas in contrast to the green background of the luxuriant vegetation, transforms this low building close to the ground, into a landmark visible from afar.
The patio becomes a shelter in case of rain, the gathering space for the hikers, where the guides give explanations in front of a huge lighted map
At the back, the small patio at the foot of the mountain is bathed in light and vegetation. It provokes a chimney effect and helps to create refreshing air currents.
By imprinting their networks in the topography, by determining a spatio-temporal relationship, by conditioning the travel experience, and by inspiring an aesthetic and an imaginary landscape, crossing infrastructures participate fully in the development of civilizations.
At the crossroads of Tamsui-Kavalan trails, railway tracks, mining galleries, and asphalt roads, Houtong is precisely one of those places where you can feel intensely the changes of civilization and their tangle in the landscape.
The tracks, unlike other vestiges of the past, never seem definitively out of use. Their functional plasticity makes them available to all forms of reappropriation, their obsolescence is often temporary. Forgotten and left behind for some time, the roads are reinvested in favor of new uses and social demands.
This is what a large bright and lively wall, dealing with the theme “Crossing”, helps the visitor to understand in a both playful and informed way.
12m long and 3m high, the images are visible through a huge semi-transparent map of the region which covers it without hiding it and serves as a “compass” for hikers before they leave.
With our eyes of landscape designers, we invite the public to reflect and realize by browsing it how the different modes of crossing, mark the landscape and change our way of perceiving it: railways, mines, paths and roads and also electric lines, hydraulic structures …
Landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:
Architecture offices involved in the design: mICHELE&mIQUEL
Client: Tourism and Travel Department, New Taipei City Government
Author, designer, project manager :
mICHELE&mIQUEL Michèle ORLIAC & Miquel BATLLE architects and landscape architects
dA VISION DESIGN Chung-Hsun WU landscape architect
Internal team :
mICHELE&mIQUEL : Jerôme Lanche, Yun-Jhu Lin, Giovanna Bartholeschi, Jean Orliac, Grégoire Orliac
dA VISION DESIGN : Jerry Chang, Ming-Hsien Liu, Lilian Chang
Building Company: YONG CHENG CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING CO, LTD
Photographer: Yu-Jui LU
Location: Houtong Visitor Center, Chailiao Rd., Ruifang Dist., New Taipei CityProject , Taiwan