Presenting Beimen in a New Light and Implementing the Taipei West Gateway Explanatory Plan
The Gateway is Where People Meet, and is the First Impression that People Get of the City and the People Who Live There
「Western Taipei could be considered like the root of Taipei City. Having been through the Qing Dynasty and Japanese Colonial Period, it will also become the starting point of the West Gateway Plan, and as such it connects the past, present, and future.
Since 1980, the city development of Taipei City has been more focused on Eastern Taipei. For 36 years, the Eastern commercial district and Xinyi commercial district have been the symbols of modern Taipei City. Structurally, they have created a 150 hectare New Taipei. The development of Western Taipei has been considerably slower, and people have the feeling of stagnation. Taking a global perspective based on the development experience of advanced cities, old city regeneration is an opportunity for sustainable development. When Ko Wen-je became Taipei City Mayor, he actively promoted the “West Gateway Explanatory Plan” aiming to create a form of development that would spring forth from the roots of Taipei City. Using Taipei Main Station as the core of his plan, he presented a plan that connected a global view with a local historical view.
The urban planning of Taipei Main Station Special Zone goes back to the 1970s. The surrounding area of Taipei Main Station was originally set up for business use only. In cooperation with the construction of railway, bus stations, and routes, it was first designated for traffic use in 1978. In coordination with the project to move the railway underground, and to upgrade the overall landscape and transport hub functions, Taipei City Government readjusted the urban design of the surrounding areas of Taipei Main Station so that it focused more on the user. From 1990 to 1993, the development of the area surrounding Taipei Main Station has changed. Other than the existing Taipei Main Station, we have established a 1,100 meter long traffic square on the North side of Zhongxiao West Road. We hope to use a pedestrian system that connects the surrounding areas of Taipei Main Station to provide travelers with first impressions of openness and comfort.
Disturbance by Fragmented Construction Site Provides Opportunity for Change
Unfortunately, the surrounding areas of Taipei Main Station have always been disturbed by large public construction. An area that was originally intended to be a proud city feature and national gateway became a construction site that was unapproachable. When Ko Wen-je became Taipei City Mayor, he declared the launch of the Taipei West Gateway Explanatory Plan. His hopes are that when the Airport MRT A1 station is open to traffic in the future, travelers from Taiwan and overseas will see the station and surrounding areas on arrival and their impression will be positive. Taipei City will thus have a brand-new capital city image.
The Taipei West Gateway Explanatory Plan involves 44.5 hectares of land, and it affects 100 hectares of the surrounding area. Public land takes up the most area. Based on the planning projects of Taipei Main Station special area in different time periods, the planning goal of the national gateway was put forward. Drawing on examples from across the city as planning concepts, the areas of people-oriented transport, historical landscapes, ecological environments, diverse cultures, industrial innovation, and public particip ation were all reviewed.
The Tearing down of Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road was the First Step of the West Gateway Explanatory Plan
Surrounded by many cultural assets, the tearing down of Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road was the first step in implementing the West Gateway Explanatory Plan. It was built in 1978 and was 750 meters long. The purpose of building it was to solve the traffic bottleneck caused by the railway level-crossing before the railway was moved underground. In order for the 132 year old monument Beimen to “reappear” Taipei City Government chose the time with the least traffic flow. Therefore, from February 7 2016 during Chinese New Year Festival, 7,000 workers worked around the clock to tear down Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road. During the demolition work, to avoid the important monument from getting harmed, Beimen was shrouded in a protective cover with the hope of protecting the monument and the important cultural heritages surrounding it. The protection of nearby Taipei Post Office, Railway Department of the Transportation Bureau of the Governor General of Taiwan, and the Mitsui & Co. Old Warehouse was also a high priority. TCG also set up safety monitoring system during the construction.
Finally, on February 12, we completed the tearing down of Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road, regarded as the most difficult demolition job in Taipei City history. Upon completion, Beimen was transformed into Beimen City Landscape Square, and the crowded traffic and pedestrian problems were also solved. As a result, this national gateway is not only a location going into and out of Taipei City, but as the best evidence of the development history of Taipei City, visitors coming to Taipei City can see the beauty and progress when they visit.
Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road and Surrounding Road Improvement Construction won the 2016 Taipei City Government Public Construction Excellence Award, 16th Public Construction Golden Quality Award (Public Construction Quality Excellence Award), Civil Engineering Excellence Award, and 10th Annual Public Construction Golden Safety Award.
Preservation and Reading of the Texture of Cultural and Historical Space
The newly transformed Beimen has become the new highlight of Taipei City. It is the new starting point of Taipei City history. Beimen was built in the 10th Year of the Qing Dynasty Guangxu Emperor (1884). It was originally named “Cheng-En Gate,” meaning “Undertaking grace”, and it was one of the five Taipei gates built during the late Qing Dynasty. It was the main thoroughfare from the city to Dadaocheng, and the gateway that Qing officials passed through to get to the government offices inside the city walls. It is the only Taipei city gate that has maintained its original features of Qing Dynasty city gate towers. However, for a long period of time, Beimen was squeezed by an elevated road and stood amidst heavy traffic, therefore it was difficult for the citizens to feel the unique historical atmosphere of Beimen, and also understand the development history of Taipei City since the Qing Dynasty.
In order to shape the particularity of Beimen and its surrounding square, the road had to be arched north. In the meantime, there was also a possible effect on the Mitsui Corp. on the North side of Zhongxiao West Road, and we had to temporarily move it to traffic square 8 for reassembly and renovation. Working out the best preservation method for Mitsui Warehouse was a major concern. During the cultural property evaluation, after many workshops and public hearings with citizens and stakeholders, Taipei City Government worked with citizens to evaluate all the possibilities for preservation. Finally, on May 20 2016, the results of the cultural property evaluation were issued. In light of cultural property preservation challenges, current city landscape, and traffic issues, we approved the Mitsui Warehouse relocation and preservation plan. In the future, we will use digital measuring to record its original coordinates and if it is possible we will move it back to the original site in the future.
In the future, the West Gateway Explanatory Plan will integrate the nearby cultural heritage sites such as Taipei Post Office, the Railway Department of the Traffic Bureau of the General Governor of Taiwan, and square renovation plans. Together we will construct the Beimen cultural heritage cluster, and tell the story of the city through the historical space of the national gateway.
People-Oriented Taipei Main Station Peripheral Traffic Improvement
Taipei Main Station is an important Taipei City transport hub. The transport planning of the station is focused on being people-oriented. The goal is to create a friendly city transportation space. Since the 2016 Chinese New Year festival, we have torn down the Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road and continue to carry out work on Zhongxiao West Road and the traffic flows surrounding Beimen. Through road simplification, traffic congestion has been reduced. In the meantime, through the connection of transportation stations and monument cluster by walkways, traffic safety and driving efficiency has been improved.
The Taipei West Station belonging to traffic square 6 was demolished in November 2016. In the future, under the urban plan, it will become a landscape square and city bus waiting area. It will also align with the opening of Airport MRT A1 Station, providing a comfortable and complete pedestrian walkway and waiting area. The bus routes in front of the station will also be adjusted in response to the revised entry location for the City Bus Station. They will be adjusted according to the directions of the routes. In the future, this will reduce the problem of insufficient stopping time in the bus area during rush hours. In addition, this plan will establish long corridor bus waiting areas and smart tourist facilities, which will help to upgrade the quality of the environment-for people whilst waiting for buses. The routes of national highway buses will be redirected to Taipei Bus Station and the surroundings of Taipei Main Station. Through distribution planning, the burden of major roads and traffic in the city will be reduced to maintain good shuttle bus transfer function and provide seamless space for travelers. This is the vision of people-oriented transport of the West Gateway.
Landscape Remolding, the Tearing down and Design of Surrounding Advertisements of Beimen
After the Zhongxiao Bridge Elevated Access Road was demolished, another-“blight on city aesthetics” came to light.
After the bridge access road was removed, Beimen was revitalized. However, action was needed to address the illegal advertisements and other unsightly features surrounding Beimen and to improve the area’s appearance. The first step was to designate Beimen and its surrounding area as an advertisement control area. Illegal advertisement will be torn down on a priority basis in three stages. Firstly illegal advertisements that are damaged, or severely harm the appearance of the cityscape on the South side of Beimen will be removed. Following that, those within the first and second control areas will be torn down on a priority basis. We have already removed 36 illegal advertisements, gradually improving the cityscape around Beimen.
City Reconstruction, the Regeneration of the Former Site of the City Council
The former site of the city council is situated between Zhongshan South Road and Zhongxiao West Road. It is an important part of the West Gateway Explanatory Plan. The building itself has great significance as the birthplace of democracy in Taiwan. The site is near the core location of the Taipei Main Station area. The surrounding businesses include department stores and hotels, for example, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and Cosmos Hotel. The land use is diverse in nature and has the potential for business development. The future redevelopment plan will be beneficial by bringing more diverse business facilities, and land will be developed under the surface rights method, increasing TCG revenue and promoting local development. Under the future development plan, 20% of the total floor area will be used by the successful bidder to establish the Taipei City Museum (including the future vision of Taipei City and history exhibition, old city council relics and examination hall memorial stone. It will be provided according urban planning regulations (for example, cultural industrial sales centers, office spaces, cultural exchange spaces, and multipurpose performance hall).
Through cooperation between the private sector and the government, the MRT exits and entrances of Taipei Main Station will connect the buildings, attracting large groups of people to spend their money. Working together with excellent businesses, the development of Taipei City will be driven, public land development benefits increased, and the economy boosted. The revenue of the municipal treasury and employment opportunities will be increased, and the goal of sustainable operation of city properties with stable revenue will be achieved.
Connecting the Past, Present, and Future, the Root of Taipei- West Gateway Explanatory Plan
Taipei, as the national capital city represents democracy, freedom, tolerance, and reflection. Taipei, as a modern Chinese city, holds the power of traditional culture, and potential of innovative thinking.
Taipei, as a universal city, exhibits the wisdom of Eastern civilization and the charm of Asian subtropical island ecological environment.
Taipei, as a livable city for a citizens, should respond to the natural environmental conditions, continue the historical context the city exists within, respect the life needs of people, create a public space of equal rights, and exhibit the city’s value of diverse dialogue.
Since 2015, the Western Gateway Plan has gradually given Western Taipei a new look. From 2015 to 2017, we will plan to adjust the road patterns of Zhongxiao West Road and remodel Beimen Square and traffic square 6. We want to make use of comfortable open pedestrian spaces to let the travelers and citizens see and feel the quality of the spaces surrounding the station. Taipei Main Station will not only be a transfer hub, but as for the land development aspect, Taipei City Government is actively promoting the use of the surface rights method to develop the original site of the city council, restarting the twin tower development project, the active re-use of the old Taipei Post Office, and the public urban planning of the buildings behind it to promote local industrial development.
The mid and long term development plan is to evaluate the reconstruction of Yuchuan Park and Loyang Park Lot. Overall city design and smart technology application will serve as long term Western Gateway development plan measures. In the future, we will also plan to revitalize the historical image of Beimen, establish the railway museum park, build Taipei Corridor and Submerged Plaza; as well as introduce diverse creative industries and citizens’ events to create the friendly gateway space of Taipei City.
We will continue to look forward to and pay attention to the changes of the Western Gateway.