The Embryos of Taipei: General urban planning direction of Taihoku

1903 mapMap of Taipei City in 1903

Taiwan, as a part of China, was considered as an undeveloped area until the empire of Qing Dynasty decided to work on this piece of island in 1709. After more than a hundred years, urbanisation started to happen and Taipei was marked as an administrative centre of the island. Basic infrastructure and transportation system were built to connect different parts of the land in the mid-1800’s. The city wall was also built to well define Taipei city, becoming the starting point of urbanisation.

Taipei city’s development had a great impact in the late-1800’s because of the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan became a colonial city under Japan in 1895. The Japanese government renamed Taipei as Taihoku and set up 5-year development plans to continue urbanising the city. With respect to the original context, Taihoku’s urbanisation took place in a subtle in terms of the urban grid (when compared with some of the master plans made by western planners).

In all those 5-year plans, there are several objectives to be achieved so as to either help Taihoku step forward into the modern world or as an urban experiment for development by the Japanese empire. Some of the objectives can be referenced back to the architectural theory we have discussed in lectures. First of all, it set up the planned population in the city so as to control the population density. The amount of public facilities should have a positive relationship with the population therefore the plot area of different programs in the city was also planned.

Another move it made is to dissect the city into different functional districts. Its concept is like the industrial city, where people travel to different area for different purpose. This may increase the efficiency in land use and minimise the conflict between programs. Although the concept of plot ratio may not be seen in the city maps, the Japanese empire did pay attention to green open space so we can also find green zones in Taihoku’s plan.

City centres of main architectures, including the government house and the administrative buildings, were also created to dilute the concentration inside the city wall. This shares some of the ideas from the poly nuclear city, but in a much smaller scale. Major streets and roads on the grid were also defined by the centres. And they were also the parameters of defining the third dimension of the city.

Apart from the change and development that can be observed on the city plan, the content of 5-year developments include constructions to enhance the fundamental infrastructure to take care of different key issues like hygiene, disaster precaution and quality of life. Water provision and drainage, flood protection, electricity and gas supply, telephone network,etc were also the focus of the development plans.

Instead of tearing down the whole city and overlaying a new master plan on this piece of colonial land, the Japanese empire took an approach similar to an urban renewal project to further urbanise Taipei as their Taihoku. It may not be a common approach taken by an empire to its colonial city to reform, but i definitely bring Taipei to a more modern city through urbanisation.

Bibliography and Reference:

Liao, Cheng-hung. Urbanization in Taiwan: 1900-1985. Taipei: National Taiwan University, 1987.
“Google Map/Earth觀察報@Sinica » 台灣百年歷史地圖.” Accessed December 9, 2016.,5145.1.

1 Comment on “The Embryos of Taipei: General urban planning direction of Taihoku

  1. Is there a sense of scale to how the original plan for Taihoku was planned, and how it compares to the giant metropolis of Taipei today?

    Are there any comparisons of the Taihoku plan to other cities planned in the same period, or how the ideals differed?

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