現代叢林派——高樓生活鳥瞰!

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1992 / 10月

文‧魏宏晉 圖‧卜華志


高,高,高!高了還要更高!

 

隨著台灣錢由腳目淹到了胸口,高樓大廈也跟著拔地衝天。由十數層而數十層、由單一矗立到龐大組群。打著尊貴、氣派、帝王貴族的訴求形象,高樓巨廈由商圈辦公室進軍市郊住宅,進而上山下鄉,無所不在。

 

這廿世紀人類的新玩意、新經驗,究竟解決了多少居住的問題?坐在客廳裡觀天攬月的滋味又如何?


擔任公職的李向榮顯然對自己能夠擁有這樣的高層住宅非常滿意。以前住在公寓二樓的他,一得到位於台北建國南路大安國宅的配售權後,就一心要爭取高樓層住戶。結果他如願買下第十七樓,「視野佳、採光好、沒蚊蟲、空氣也清新」,他細數著房子擁有「制高點」的優點。

政府造路,建商造鎮!

地小人稠是一般人對台灣的印象,民國七十年後,經濟的活絡加上建築技術進步,此地建築物漸漸突破以往約在七至十二層左右的高度,往天空伸展。三、四十層辦公大樓紛紛出現,就連住宅也悍然向上拔高。

民國七十三年完工的大安國宅最高是十八層的建築;稍後的成功國宅多了一層,有十九樓之高。而在一般民間興建的住宅大樓中,廿層以上的比比皆是,高雄還將出現五十層以上的住宅摩天樓。

在地緣的分佈上,不只是台北、台中、高雄等大都會,新竹、台南、甚至宜蘭,也處處可見。近來,這些高層住宅更以龐大的「組群」面貌出現,挾著統一出入大門,中庭花園、游泳池等公共設施,建商甚至打出:「政府造路、我們造鎮」的口號。

「台灣的建築向高空發展,已經是不可避免的趨勢」,這是忙著設計完成一棟棟超高大樓的建築師們的共同結論。而且,向天爭地不單只是土地有限的問題,更代表土地的「充分利用」,藉以充實生活內容。

這個理論很簡單——建築愈向高空發展,地面便能空出更多土地,增加可利用的休閒空間。此外,高層建築,尤其是多棟相連的高層建築群組,基本上就是一個小市鎮,設計時,它除了運動休閒設施外,超級市場、幼稚園、銀行、小吃街……等等生活必需都被包含進去,「食、衣、住、行都可以在這裡得到滿足」,一位建築師這樣形容。

我們需要這麼多房子嗎?

聽起來好極了!只是建築知識不甚豐富、空間概念未見周全的小老百姓,還是要問:樓向高處爬了以後,地面便真能增加更多可利用的休閒空間了嗎?為什麼大都市裡高樓重障,愈組愈多,街頭巷尾幾乎到了非日中夜半,不見日月星光的地步了?

再說,當所有的二層透天厝、四層雙並公寓都「組合」成廿層建築群組;兩戶變八戶再而兩百餘戶之後,我們真的需要那麼多的房子嗎?

「所有能蓋房子的土地都被建商們搜括殆盡」,一位曾在建設公司工作一年的業務員表示,寸土寸金,包括住戶在內,大家願打願挨,誰也捨不得多留空間。另一位業務員試圖勸說一位在二層透天厝住了廿幾年,堅持不肯加入改建的老太太:「想想看,一戶變好幾戶,我們把法律規定公共用地劃進中庭,又多出幾百坪,等到政府實施容積率,大家就慘啦,那有這麼好分?」

而根據行政院主計處在民國七十九年所進行的台閩地區人口普查結果顯示,台灣地區單位住宅空屋率平均為百分之十三.二九,換句話說,十間房屋中有近一間半沒人住。這與我們一般認為台灣人口太多、土地有限,所以要拚命向天爭地增蓋高樓的認知,有頗大的出入。

小小世界真奇妙

至於建築群組堙A放進了休閒設施、超級市場、幼稚園、銀行……,這究竟意味了我們的居家環境擴大了,還是生活的世界更小了?

先讓我們來看看大樓生活的實例。

王太太住在成功國宅,通常在早上六點半起床,坐電梯到樓下的店面買早點,順便招呼更早起床在社區中庭打太極拳的公公。回家後,一家人吃完早餐,先生出門上班,王太太才把四歲的男孩送到隔壁棟樓下的成功幼稚園上學,她再到旁邊的傳統市場買菜。買完菜正好趕上到一樓社區管理委員會辦公室標會,順便提醒在辦公室堣U棋的公公,記得十二點要上樓吃午飯。

下午兩點半,王太太到對面十樓上插花課,四點鐘下樓,小孩也正好放學。她帶著寶寶到隔鄰的超市買瓶醬油後,順便再提醒下棋的公公一起回家。「我好像好久沒有走出這卅八棟建築的範圍以外了F!」晚上十點,王太太和先生在中庭散步,一邊走一邊這麼說。

有上千個鄰居!

集合式的高層住宅包辦了主婦的生活,省掉不少往返勞頓,但與成百上千的芳鄰鄰居所構成的生活形態,既有勝於遠親之處,當然也有「親戚」太多的麻煩。

成功國宅樓下中庭的牆上就貼有許多這樣的紅紙條——「早起運動的朋友,請放低聲音,以免干擾別人的生活」。一位住十四樓的先生說:「奇怪,過去以為住高會比較安靜,但為什麼早上運動人的呼吸聲,我好像都可以聽得一清二楚」,他顯然不知道聲音經常是向上傳導的。

另一對張姓夫婦花了將近千萬,興沖沖搬進「與遠山稜線等高」的高樓群組。為了防止正處於好動年齡寶寶爬上爬下危險,他們決定犧牲部分景觀,把陽台水泥圍欄加高卅公分。想不到牆才砌好,樓下鄰居就抗議他們的電視收視情況被影響,三天兩頭上來「按鈴申告」。最後只好花錢為他們裝了電視強波器才了事——雖然裝線的老闆認為是樓下自己最近整線出的問題。

接著十三樓水管漏水,滲壞十二樓天花板,明明才裝潢好的客廳臥室,只有再重新來過。「住大樓就是這樣,上下左右全是鄰居,難免動輒得咎」,那麼為什麼又花這麼多錢住大樓群組?「在台北去那裡找透天厝?」張太太表示,他們夫婦也試過市郊別墅式的住宅群,但交通實在不方便。衡量之下,現在的大樓面湖近山,又有游泳池、網球場等設備,也算是目前最好的選擇了。

電梯傳奇

高樓的建築理念,就是把一幢幢的平房疊起來,互相以電梯連結交通。由大樓電梯,也能看出一些「群組」生活的面貌。

住在內湖一棟大廈群組的趙太太聲稱她有「四百七十三家鄰居」。十四層的大樓棟棟相連,常有個子太小,按不到自家樓層而在大樓裡迷路的孩子,「我們撿到這樣的小孩,認得的就送回去,不認得的就請管理員廣播招領」,她指著並排的兩部電梯表示,不曉得是不是鄰居太多了,她常在進電梯時看見後面還有人,就按著電梯等候,但來者往往對「共乘」並不感興趣,結果兩部電梯又在同層停下,還是免不了見面的尷尬。

住在成功國宅的七旬老翁王爺爺,由於心臟不好,受不了電梯起動時那一剎那的壓力,所以上下樓時寧願慢慢爬樓梯,「哪天爬不動,只好『關』在樓上了。」他有些自嘲地說。

有趣的對比是,就讀幼稚園大班的王小弟,住群組大樓三樓,但從不走樓梯,問他為什麼?「坐電梯比較快呀!」他答得理所當然。

躲得了人群,避不過風聲

選擇較高樓層為住家的人,著眼點多在「景觀好」,以及那份遠離塵囂、高高在上的感覺。但對於剛由平房遷入高樓的人,卻也得度過一段適應期。

成功國宅西區自治會會長何佛如原來住的是眷村平房,眷村原地改建國宅後,他住到六樓就已經覺得不敢向下看了。高高在上,反而讓他常常頭昏,「大概是我老了,老人住高樓是不是不太好啊?」他問。

「有此一說」,建築師雜誌主編趙家琪指出,曾經有研究顯示,人若長期離開地面太遠,有可能造成骨骼脆弱。不過此說並無定論。

倒是一般人以為住高樓就等於遠離塵囂,享受安靜的夢想,遭到了考驗。因為即使你離開了人群的喧鬧,卻躲不過風聲的嘈雜。

維也納國立實用藝術大學教授胡寶林指出,風吹向高樓時,自然朝上流動,然後越過樓頂,吹到樓房背面。由於愈向上流速愈快,住愈高的住戶,風流動時和建物築表面摩擦的聲音也就愈大。

小心臭氣!

除了風姐的造訪,「大家都以為高層空氣好,其實也錯了」,胡寶林指出,二氧化碳比較重,所以和落塵都會向地面沈積,住得越高,確實比較沒有二氣化碳和落塵污染的問題。

然而地面上汽車所排放出燃燒不完全的廢氣,與氧氣結合成臭氧,它比空氣輕,會向上飄浮,並聚在高度一千公尺以下的低空,「廿層以上高度的樓房,臭氧問題就很嚴重了」,他警告說。

而高樓為應付可能來襲的強風、地震,結構體本身需具備相當的彈性,因此在相當高度時,建築物會以極微小的角度搖晃,「站在廿樓以上高度向下望,建築物真的會晃,並非錯覺」,胡寶林表示,建築物經常性的晃動,對老人可能不是件好事。

中庭變煙囪

高層建築群組的中庭開放空間,可以是享受休閒的公共空間,但也可能收到反效果。這也是鍾情高樓群組的夢想家所不能不考慮的。

有些高樓中庭,由於規劃不良常有哄哄鬧鬧的感覺,是因迴音不能擴散所產生的缺點。「中庭和四面樓高比例一變小,中庭就成了天井,再小下去就變成煙囪」,建築學者王鎮華提醒說,當中庭太小,四面樓層又太高時,火災一來,這種「煙囪」助長火勢、效果奇佳。

對於某些建商一味強調台灣地狹人稠,建築物只有向高空拓展一途,王鎮華表示完全不能同意。他指出,持「高樓是必須的」說法的人,是把工程技術的進步,與人類文明進步混為一談。

高樓耗費資源

現代高層建築濫殤於美國,一八九○年代,美國工業發展神速,部分製造火車鐵軌的商人想為鐵軌找出新用途,於是有人將其稍為改良,成為建材用的鋼骨。

摩天大樓的設計得到了建材支持,因此在美國大地上出現。「這代表美國人勇於突破現有技術的精神,和現在所謂要以高樓解決人口密度問題的想法並沒有直接關連」,台灣大學城鄉研究所劉可強教授也指出,高層建築對於人類資源其實是一種浪費,不論是建築物本身的構成,或是能源消耗、維護管理、整修等,所耗費的資源都相當可觀。

已退休的建築師陳昭武舉了一個例子支持劉可強的說法。一棟高層建築的外表清洗,或者是修補整理,除了修整本身的成本外,還必須動用到起重機、操作人員、維持四周安全秩序的人員、經特別訓練的工作人員……等等,「修整大樓的建材費如果是一萬元,其他周邊的費用可能高達一百萬」,他說,如果拿一百萬來改善一般房屋的居住品質,得到的效益不知要高出多少倍。

專業管家,管大家的家

以「我們只有一個地球」的環保觀念來看,昂貴的維持成本無疑是資源的浪費;但建商以「我們只有一個足以炫耀的家」來考量,這反而變成售屋的「賣點」之一。

「大樓管理已成為一項專業」,專門從事大樓規劃管理的一家企管公司副董事長高永昆說,大樓管理工作不單是維護安全,還要為住戶架起溝通橋樑。

負責管理一棟廿一層高級住宅大樓的現場主任黃北生說,他們所管理的大樓單是進口的防災警報系統,價值就高達數百萬,管理工作人員更有十三人。而除負責大樓安全、警衛、清潔、維修外,他們還曾舉辦過聯誼活動,增進住戶情感。

尤有甚者,許多大樓以「住家像旅館」來號召買主,強調大樓可提供整體裝潢、設計、清潔人員、公共秘書……,讓「回家像渡假」。

昂貴的高價群組講究全套服務,用金錢解決問題;一般的高層國宅,就靠熱心的住戶自己出面想辦法了。

逃生妙法,自製自治

成功國宅西區是由軍眷戶改建而成,小孩、老人特別多,萬一火災發生,住高的人可能來不及向下逃生,而現時國內消防雲梯最高又只有五十公尺,可能達不到廿樓。西區自治會因此想了個逃生妙法,花四十多萬塊錢訂製不袗鐵梯,將其中相鄰的十一棟到十八棟以鐵梯相連結起來,「萬一A棟著火時,大家可先逃到頂樓,利用鐵梯,逃到未被波及的B棟」,住西區的郭輝燦對他們自治會想出這防火逃生妙招頗為得意。

熱心的老人們也為社區增添了不少附加價值。郭輝燦早上才油漆了外面庭園的木椅,這完全是他自動自發的,「很多人愛來我們這兒住,儘管卅多坪的房子要賣到九百多萬,還是有人搶著要呢」,說起來掩不住的驕傲。

「如果高層建築的出現,是經過良好的規劃」,陳昭武表示,如香港、新加坡等為解決人口問題而興建高層建築,不但無可厚非,也算解決了部分社會問題。

再用一點心

反之,如果它只是人們為了向天爭地、一心增值,而愈蓋愈高、愈建愈密,就著實令人擔心。

「如果用心去設計,適當的高度加上彈性空間的運用,還是可以設計出人性、合理的樓房」,王鎮華希望建築師在設計作品時,不要只在表面爭奇鬥豔,應在空間運用上多用心。

劉可強也指出一些高樓設計可努力的方向,像在每層樓中開闢公共休閒空間,甚至是公共樓中樓空間;增加人與人佇留相遇的機會,或許可以改善現時冷漠的鄰里關係。「只是不知道建商和住戶,是否願意『浪費』可賣錢的空間」,他笑說。

〔圖片說明〕

P.6

樓外有樓,峰峰相連;高層樓組在台灣大量出現。圖為台北成功國宅。

P.8

「心有多高,天就有多大」,這是「台北的天空」。

P.9

登高遠眺,「君臨天下」的感覺是否油然而生?

P.10

回家嘍!我家門前有甬道,上下有電梯。

P.11

戴上眼鏡仔細瞧,別按錯我家門鈴!

P.11

為了強調安全,高樓住宅常與保全公司簽約,嚴防門戶。

P.12

大廈叢林堛漱亢x提供住戶們休憩的空間。

P.13

我住高樓中,君住高樓頂,日日見君在電梯。

P.13

「可以開賓士車的客廳」,為什麼搭配的是不容轉身的後陽台。

P.14

目前消防雲梯車最高只有五十公尺,火災來時,廿樓以上的人要自力更生了!

P.15

當有一千個鄰居的垃圾要處理,大家就會感到垃圾分類的重要了!

P.16

登高攬月,攬得萬家燈火如眾星閃爍。

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EN

Dwellers of the Modern Forest--The Life of the High-Rise Clan

Wei Hung-chin /photos courtesy of Pu Hua-chih /tr. by Christopher Hughes

High, high, higher! Now that Taiwan is awash with money, high-rise buildings are breaking the ground and scraping the skies. From ten storeys to tens of storeys, from single blocks to massive complexes. Appealing to the values of conspicuous consumption, the high-rises have advanced from being commercial offices into suburban residences, entering mountains and towns so that nowhere is free from them.

How many of the problems of living accommodation can this new fad of twentieth-century humanity really solve? What is life like when you can sit in your living room and look out at the sky and almost touch the moon?


Civil-servant Li Hsiang-jung is very satisfied that he can have a high-rise apartment. Previously living on the second floor of an apartment block, as soon as he was able to buy an apartment in the Great Peace public housing estate on Chienkuo South Road he set his sights on fighting to get a high-rise apartment there. In the end he achieved his wish and bought an apartment on the seventeenth floor. "The view is great, it is light, there are no mosquitos, and the air is fresh," he lists as the highest priorities for wanting to "take the summit."

The government builds roads, we build villages: A small area packed with people is the impression most people have of Taipei. After 1981, with the advance of the economy and improvements in construction technology, architecture gradually broke through the previous height limit of around seven to twelve storeys and stretched up to the skies. Thirty-storey and forty-storey office blocks haphazardly appeared, then even residential buildings were boldly pulled up higher.

The highest of the buildings in the Great Peace estate, which was completed in 1984, was 18 storeys; the Achievement estate followed on its heels and went one better at 19 storeys. Twenty storeys is not uncommon for most private-sector residential blocks. The city of Kaohsiung even wants to have a skyscraper of more than 50 storeys.

In terms of their spread, not only are high-rises to be seen in the main cities of Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung, but even Ilan is seeing them sprout up all over the place. Recently these high-rise residences have also taken on the new appearance of massive "tribal" complexes. Between the shared main entrance, central gardens, swimming pool and other communal facilities, even shops are appearing. "The government builds roads, we build villages" goes the slogan.

"The development of Taiwan's architecture towards the sky is already an unavoidable trend," is the consensus shared by one group of architects who designed a super high-rise. To reach towards the heavens and defy the ground is not simply due to a problem of land limitations, but even more represents "fully exploiting" the land under the pretext of giving people a fuller life. The reasoning behind this is very simple--the higher architecture gets, the more empty land will be released to increase the space used for leisure. Apart from this, high-rise buildings, especially the high-rise "tribal" complexes, are basically small villages. When designed, apart from recreational facilities, all the necessities of life such as supermarkets, kindergartens, banks and small restaurant malls are also included in the package. "Food, clothes, accommodation, exercise, can all be satisfied here," is how one architect describes it.

Do we need so much housing?: It sounds great! It is just that Joe Public, who does not have such a rich knowledge of architecture and whose ideas about space are not fully formed, might still want to ask: When the buildings have crawled up high, will there really be more space for leisure on the ground? Why are the numbers of high-rises in the cities getting more and more dense and numerous so that the streets and alleys seem to have become places where you walk without ever seeing the sun, moon and stars?

Then again, houses and four storey apartment blocks are being "combined" to become 20 storey "tribal" complexes; after two families have become eight families, then finally more than 200 families, do we really need so much accommodation?

"Just about all the building land has been swept up by property developers," says one clerk who worked in a construction company for a year. With every inch of land worth a fortune, who will want to hold on to a bit of empty space, and that includes the residents. Another clerk tried to persuade an elderly woman who did not want to move from the two-storey house she had occupied for more than 20 years by asking her to consider that, if one dwelling became 20 and communal land was included in the central court with more floor space still left over, "If we wait until the government puts into practice its rating system, everyone will suffer, and what can be good about that?"

The 1990 population census of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statitstics of the Executive Yuan revealed that there is a 13.29 percent rate of unoccupied residences in the Taiwan area. In other words, about 1.5 out of every 10 residences is standing empty. This sits uneasily with the view held by most people that with too many people in Taiwan and not enough land we must go all out to build upwards.

Small is beautiful: As for the installation of leisure facilities, supermarkets, kindergartens and banks in the new complexes, does this ultimately expand our home environment or make our living space even smaller? Let us first take a look at life in a high-rise.

Mrs. Wang lives in the Achievement estate. She normally rises at 6.30 am and takes the elevator to a shop on the first floor to buy something for breakfast, conveniently exchanging greetings with her father-in-law who is doing Taichi exercises in the central court. Returning home, the family eats breakfast and her husband goes off to the office. Mrs. Wang then takes her four-year-old son to the Achievement Kindergarten, and goes to a traditional market to buy food. After shopping, it is just about time to go to the credit cooperative in the neighborhood committee office on the first floor, conveniently reminding her father-in-law who is playing chess there to come upstairs for lunch at noon.

At 2.30 pm Mrs. Wang goes to flower-arranging class held on the tenth floor in the block opposite. At 4.00 pm she goes downstairs to meet her child coming out of school. She takes the child to the adjoining supermarket and buys a bottle of soy sauce, and reminds her chess-playing father-in-law to come home with them on the way. "It is just as if I have not been out of the range of this 38-storey building for ages," is what Mrs. Wang says as she strolls with her husband in the central court at 10.00 pm.

More than a thousand neighbors! This concentrated type of high-rise dwelling includes arrangements for housewives which save a lot of work going to and fro. Moreover, the style of life that comes with having so many neighbors is better than having relatives far removed, although there is also the hassle of having too many "relatives."

In Achievement Kingdom's central courtyard there are thus signs on the wall reading, "Will those who rise early please keep quiet and avoid disturbing others." One man who lives on the fourteenth floor says: "It is strange. I always thought that living high up would be more peaceful, but why is it that it seems as though I can hear every breath made by the early-morning exercisers?" Obviously he does not realize that sound travels upwards.

Another couple, the Changs, spent nearly NT$10 million to move excitedly into a complex "as high as the peaks of the distant mountains." As a safety precaution for their active baby they added thirty centimeters to the height of the concrete wall on their balcony. They never thought that, no sooner had the wall been heightened, the people living underneath would start to complain that it was interfering with their television reception. For three days the couple from downstairs came and rang the doorbell to complain, and eventually the Changs had to spend money on buying them a signal booster of despite the fact that the man who installed it thought it was a problem caused by the people downstairs themselves.

Then a pipe on the thirteenth floor leaked and damaged the ceiling of the twelfth. The new sitting room which had just been decorated had to be done all over again. "Living in a high-rise is like that. Above and below, left and right, all are neighbors, so it is hard to avoid drawing criticisms at every move."

So why should people spend so much money to live there? "Where can you find a house in Taipei?" says Mrs. Chang. The couple did also look outside the city, but the communications were not convenient. Weighing it up, the high-rise they now live in faces a lake and is close to the mountains, has a swimming pool, tennis court and other facilities, and was thus considered to be the best choice for the moment.

Elevating sagas: The architectural concept of the high-rise is basically to pile up apartments and connect them with an elevator. From the elevator you can also see something of the character of "tribal" living.

Living in a high-rise complex in Neihu, Mrs. Chao claims to have "473 neighbors." The fourteen-storey buildings of the complex are joined up, and there is often a child who cannot reach the elevator button for his floor and gets lost in the corridors. "When we find this kind of child, if we know him we take him home; if not then we ask the porter to put out an announcement." She points at the two elevators next to each other and says she is not sure whether or not it is because the neighbors are too numerous, but when she gets into the lift she often sees somebody behind her and presses the button to keep the lift waiting. However, more often than not the other person is not interested in sharing the lift. The result is that the two lifts again come to a stop on the same floor and it is impossible to avoid the embarrassment of coming face to face.

The elderly Mr. Wang who lives in the Achievement estate has a bad heart and cannot put up with the pressure caused when the elevator begins to move. He thus prefers to slowly climb the stairs. "One day I will not be able to climb any more but will have to just 'lock' myself in upstairs," he says, ridiculing himself a little.

An interesting comparison is the little kindergarden student who lives on the third floor of a high-rise complex but does not use the stairs. When asked why, he replies, "It is quicker to go by elevator," with his own evident logic.

Shunning human hubbub for the sound of the wind: People who decide to live in comparatively high places often have their eyes fixed on the good scenery and that feeling of being high up above the hubbub. Yet there is a need for some period of adjustment for those who have just moved into a high-rise from a house.

Ho Fu-ju, the head of Achievement's western-district residents' committee, moved from his bungalow to a sixth-floor apartment and does not dare to look down. UP on high, he often feels dizzy. "It is probably because I am old. Perhaps it is not too good for elderly people to live high up?" he asks.

"It is said," points out senior editor of Architect magazine Chao Chia-chi, "that if people are too far from the ground for a long time, they can develop brittle bones. However, this is has certainly not been proved."

Yet most people who think that by living up high they can escape from noise are tested when they are enjoying their dream of peace. This is because leaving the noise of people behind, your ears still have to contend with the wind.

Hu Pao-lin, professor of applied arts at Vienna University, points out that when the wind blows against high buildings there will of course be some movement. After it goes over the roof, it blows onto the back of the building. With the speed of the upward movement increasing, the higher an apartment, the louder will be the sound of the friction of the wind against the building.

Watch out for the ozone! Apart from the wind, "everyone thinks that the air is better at higher levels, which is in fact wrong," points out Hu Pao-lin. It is true that carbon-dioxide is relatively heavy, so along with dust it drifts towards the ground, meaning that the higher you live the less problems you get from carbon-dioxide and dust pollution.

However, the unburned poisons that are pumped out by car exhausts combine with oxygen to form ozone, which is lighter than air and drifts upwards to collect in the sky under an altitude of 1,000 meters. "High-rises of more than 20 storeys thus have a serious ozone problem," he warns.

Moreover, so as to cope with strong winds and earthquakes, the structure must be basically flexible, so at high levels the architecture will actually move slightly. "Stand above 20 storeys and look down, you will see the building really does move and that it is no illusion," says Hu Pao-lin. This normal architectural movement can have adverse effects on the elderly.

Central courts that become chimneys: The open space of the central courts found in highrise complexes can be seen as a communal space for recreation, but it can also produce the opposite effect. This is something that those who have fallen in love with the high-rise dream cannot avoid taking into consideration.

The central courts of some high-rises, because they have not been planned well, often give rise to the feeling of there being a lot of noise because there is no way for echoes to dissipate. "If the central court it small in proportion to the four surrounding buildings, it becomes a kind of great well. Even smaller and it becomes a chimney," warns scholar of architecture Wang Chen-hua. If the central court is too small and the buildings too high, when there is a fire this kind of "chimney" will spread it with remarkable efficiency.

As for those developers who stress that Taiwan is overcrowded and architecture can only go up, Wang Chen-hua completely disagrees. He points out that those who say "high-rises are inevitable" are wrongly conflating the progress of engineering technology with that of human civilization.

Squandering resources? The excesses of modern architecture began in America in the 1890s. With American industry developing at a phenomenal pace, some businessmen who were manufacturing railroad tracks thought of a new use for their product by adjusting it to be used for making steel frames in architecture.

With skyscraper design supported by architectural materials, in America's abundance of space there appeared "the American spirit of boldly breaking through the present technology, which has no direct relation to solving the present-day problem of population density," points out Professor Liu Ko-chiang of National Taiwan University's School of Architecture and Urban Planning. In terms of human resources, high-rise architecture is in fact a kind of waste. No matter whether it is the construction of the building, waste of energy or maintenance and repairs, the expense is quite evident to behold.

Retired architect Chen Chao-wu gives an example to support Liu Ko-chiang's theory. To clean the external architecture of a high-rise building, or to undertake repairs, apart from the basic costs must also be added that of the machinery and its operators, personnel to ensure safety and order in the surrounding area, specially trained personnel, and so on. "If the cost of the materials for repairing a building is NT$10,000, the associated costs could be as high as NT$1 million," he says. If you take NT$1 million to improve the quality of most buildings, the benefits could be much higher.

Professional managers looking after everyone's home: Looking at all this from the environmentalist point of view that "we only have one world," the high costs of maintenance are without doubt a waste of natural resources. However, from the point of view of developers, the consideration "we only have one home suitable for showing off" has become a selling point.

"Building management has already become a kind of profession," says Kao Yung-kun, deputy director of a building management planning company. The work of building management is not just to uphold safety but also to be a communication channel between residents.

Huang Pei-sheng, who is the on-site manager of a 20-storey high-class residential building, says that the fire alarm system they brought into the building alone cost millions of dollars, and there are 13 management workers. Apart from being responsible for building safety, security, cleaning and repairs, they have also held friendship activities to enhance the feelings between residents.

To an even greater extreme, many high-rises use slogans such as "a house like a hotel" to attract customers. They stress that a high-rise can supply comprehensive decorations, facilities, cleaning personnel, even secretaries, so that "going home is like a holiday."

Paying the high costs of the general services provided in high-rise complexes is throwing money at solving problems. Most public high-rise buildings thus rely on the good will of their residents to come up with solutions themselves.

An ingenious escape: The Achievement estate was built on the site of a military dependents' village and thus has a high number of children and old people. Should a fire break out, the residents who live up high might not be able to escape in time. At present, the highest fire-brigade ladders are only 50 meters, which might not reach the twentieth floor. The western-district residents committee thus came up with an ingenious method of escape: they spent more than NT$40,000 to have a stainless steel ladder made to join up the eleventh to the eighteenth buildings. "If a fire should break out in building A, then we first go up to the roof and use the ladder to escape to building B," says resident Kuo Hui-tsan with some satisfaction.

Enthusiastic elderly people have also added much to the value of the community. In the morning Ku Hui-tsan paints the wooden benches in the courtyard entirely of his own accord. "Many people love to come and live here. Although a small apartment can be sold for more than NT$9 million, people still fight to get them," he says, hardly able to conceal his pride.

Use a bit more heart: "If high-rise architecture is done according to good planning," says Chen Chao-wu, such as to solve the population difficulty in Hong Kong or Singapore, then nobody can condemn it and it can be considered to be a way to solve social problems.

On the other hand, if it is just a case of people wanting to build to the sky and defy the ground with the desire to build ever higher and more densely just for the sake of it, then people will be worried.

"If you use your heart in designing, taking suitable heights and flexible use of space, then you can still design humane and reasonable buildings," says Wang Chen-hua, in the hope that architects will not only strive for the unusual and the attractive, but devote themselves more to utilizing space.

Liu Ko-chiang also points out some directions that high-rise designs could strive towards, such as having communal leisure space on every floor or even between floors. Increasing the opportunities for people to meet and tarry can perhaps improve on the present frigidity between neighbors. "It is just whether or not the developers are willing to 'waste' the money they could get from selling the space," he says with a smile.

[Picture Caption]

The Achievement public housing estate in Taipei. High-rise complexes have appeared in huge numbers in Taiwan.

"The world is as big as your ambition"--this is the Taipei "sky."

Gazing out from up on high: is it not rather glib to "lord it over the world?"

Home! My home has a corridor at the front and an elevator going up and down.

Put on your glasses and take a careful look--do not ring my doorbell by mistake!

Stressing safety, high-rise estates often employ security companies.

Central courtyards afford residents space for leisure activities.

I live in the high-rise and you live at the top. Every day I see you when we share the elevator.

A sitting room big enough to drive a Benz in, but you can't even turn around on the accompanying sun terrace.

The highest fire-truck ladder is only 50 meters. If a fire breaks out then people above the twentieth floor will just have to save themselves.

With the garbage of a thousand neighbors to deal with, everyone realizes the importance of sorting their rubbish!

Admiring the moon from on high, the lights from thousands of homes twinkle like the stars above.

 

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