The good, The 'Da-Me' & The formless

Take a tour of the city I call home, it has inspired me tremendously as a young architect -Taipei.

Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and a dynamic metropolis with rich contrasts. It is super modern, yet steeped in complex history. The city impresses people not by typical beauty, but its vitality. The fascinating mixtures of history, chaos, contemporary re-imagination of the city and breathtaking natural surroundings reflect in its architectural landscape. At first glance, there is no obvious architectural style or qualities with ‘Da-Me’ (no-good or B grade) architecture being the flesh and bones of the city, but if you dig deeper, you will discover different layers of factors that have influenced and shaped the city. I like to categorize the architecture of Taipei into three types:

1. The Good:

The good architecture comprises of prominent historical landmark buildings and modern big-scale public or residential projects. These are the main attractions for tourists and shows up in iconic images of the city. They exists in the city almost as independent objects and anchor different neighborhoods. There have been a series of mega projects won by international ’Starchitects’, once these projects get built, they will vastly transform the cityscape. 

  1. Taipei 101

  2. The Grand Hotel

  3. Office of the President is a rare neo-renaissance landmark building built in Japanese Occupied Era

  4. Proposed Taipei Art Center by OMA


2. The ‘Da-Me’ :

Created by Japanese architect Atelier Bow-Wow,’ the term Da-Me’ architecture or B grade architecture is used to describe the anonymous and everyday architecture most heavily used by people in the city with focus mainly on functionality and site conditions instead of beauty. In my opinion, this is the main structure of the city. Local wisdom has shaped the city into tightly knit, extremely hybrid and sometimes chaotic building types and city blocks, and they best reflect the practicing spaces of the city. 

  1. Night Market: with temporary architecture

  2. DIY Additional Structures on Rooftops

  3. Jianguo Expressway Flower Market: a hybrid typology of highway and local market

3. The Formless:

Embraced by oceans and tall mountains, Taiwanese cultures are heavily influenced by nature and the myths that relate to it. A lot of architecture was created to blend into the landscape in order to bring people closer to the environment with an almost ‘naked’ aesthetic.

  1. Beitou Library

  2. Proposed Memorial Tower by Tadao Ando

  3. Bamboo Pavilion by Marco Casagrande

  4. Ruin Academy is looking at the ruining processes of Taipei that keeps the city alive and reacts to the local knowledge of the Taipei basin.

Currently, another type of formless architecture is developing that attempts to tackle problems created by dense urbanization. These experimental and creative concepts involve adaptive reuse of city components. 

Taipei is a magical city with progressive ideas. I hope you've enjoyed this tour of my true inspiration.


Andrew Shih, Junior Architect

Andrew ShihHelen Zouvelekis