古月照今城:台北市的誕生與成長

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1995 / 4月

文‧張靜茹 圖‧張良綱


台北,台灣最富競爭力的國際城市。台灣要成為亞太營運中心,台北的表現如何,具有決定性。台灣其他城市如高雄、台中,則以其馬首是瞻,都想學它,要捷運、也想蓋摩天大廈競高,也希望有它那樣多的稅收。

相較其他城市,台北也有最多資源,各種國際團體前來拜訪、表演,生活最多樣。來自全省各地的人都要「去台北打拚」。

可是,近來德國「明鏡週刊」在一篇探討有關亞洲新興國家都市的文章中,引用環保人士的說法,稱台北是:豬舍。稍早,則有英國人譏笑台灣根本不適合人居住。

一九九○年美國「財星雜誌」與「新聞週刊」也都曾以亞太國家城市做過調查,台北被認為是東亞醜小鴨,公共建設不佳、空氣汙染、交通惡劣,「更糟的是,它實在很難看。」

國外對它評價低,台北人自己更是不滿意。空氣汙染、到處攤販、違建、機車,連正常人走路都有困難。音樂學者林谷芳形容說台北人只有反射動作,車擦撞,先下車打一架;人擦撞,互瞪兩眼,「人與人已經沒有時間、空間好作反芻。」

對工程粗糙、不顧及景觀,古蹟先拆為贏,住、商混合嚴重的台北,台大建築與城鄉研究所教授夏鑄九形容台北是個黏手的大麻糬,官員、都市計畫學者都拿它沒辦法。

看看台北市,不禁想讓人問問:中國人真的這麼沒有規劃、管理城市的能力嗎?

事實上,中國在唐朝就已經有上百萬人口的長安城。漢學家李約瑟與許多國際都市計畫學者都盛讚過長安、北京是人類世界設計最完善的都市。

台北不是也有都市計畫嗎?為何它無法控制台北的問題?今天高廈林立、車聲隆隆的台北,還能從傳統中國城市得到什麼樣的反思?台灣的中國人又該如何經營自己的城市?如何在自己生活的城市裡安身立命?


台北剛過完它的一百一十歲生日。

這個被人羨慕、也被人咒罵的中華民國院轄市是怎麼誕生、成長成為今天的面貌?

台北的誕生

一八七九年,清朝依照傳統中國築城方式,在台北建城。當時大稻埕、萬華聚落都已形成,清朝選擇在這二個商業區之間建行政中心。可惜,清朝只完成公共建物,台北城尚未進一步發展就夭折了。

一八九五年,馬關條約簽訂,清朝走了。日本,抱著永久統治台灣的決心,毀掉了清朝建的天后宮等象徵中國文化的建物,在台北進行了它認為最現代化、引用自當時西方的都市計畫——連日本本土都還沒有機會試驗的一套都市計畫。

西方當時的都市計畫,是為了處理工業革命後,都市人口集中,帶來的住宅、衛生、勞工休閒等社會問題而設計。

日人因此對公共衛生特別重視,規劃了衛生下水道,把水溝弄通,將公館水源拉到城內。現代城市成立的條件就是道路,一九○一年實施「市區改正計畫」,拆掉城牆、闢出愛國東路等多條三線道路,城牆石材則被利用來鋪設下水溝。

但至今仍影響台北的,是一九三二年公佈了容納六十萬人的「大台北市區計畫圖」。除了民國五十六年台北成為院轄市後劃入的士林、木柵、內湖等六區,計畫圖幾乎就是現有的台北市區。

圖上的公園,與今天台北市的十七個開發與未開發的公園位置沒有差太多。西區以商業區為主、東區是住宅區,今天仁愛、敦化許多大道也都出現圖上。

除在中國人住的區域,以衛生理由進行房屋重建,日本人也另外規劃一些住宅區給日本移民居住,由於日本人進入台北的速度較穩定,都市因此能在計畫控制下發展。

一百年後,一九九五年的今天,人口由日據時代最多時五十萬人,增加五倍到二百七十萬人,台北的都市計畫卻幾乎仍是一百年前的舊系統。

一百年不變?

民國卅八年,國民政府撤退,台灣只是暫時落腳的基地,加上缺乏規劃城市的人才,因此沒有自己建都的計畫,甚至一九五四年才將日文的台北都市計畫說明書譯成中文。

但台北還是需要一些櫥窗,因為不斷有外國使節、外賓,於是規定由機場一路進台北必經的仁愛路與中山北路,須保留行道樹,限制建築高度。

其他地區卻逐漸失控。當日本撤出台北時,人口只剩廿九萬,民國卅八年後,新一批移民進入台北市,人口一下增加近兩倍,佔用了許多公共設施用地,公園是其中之一。長期來缺乏相對的社會計畫,部分第一批違建至今還留在十四、五號公園。

五十年代高玉樹常台北市長,最重要的市政是拆違建。違建每個城市都有,西方國家常因此提出平價住宅等政策來解決中低收入者在城市的居住問題。到了現在陳水扁市長上任,台北還是只能停留在拆違建的層次。

違建佔用了公共設施用地,影響了都市計畫的運作。但造成都市計畫失控的主因,現任台北市政府都市發展局長張景森認為,是都市土地未改革。他在博士論文中提到,第一次台灣農地改革,僅有三成的補償地價轉為工業發展基金,其餘七成仍在地主手上,不少地主把資金轉購都市土地。農地改革四年間,台北、基隆、台南、高雄四大都市,每甲土地上漲四到五倍,後來土地全面性上漲,也讓少數人坐擁都市大批土地。

台北都市計畫的進行,就建立在不穩定的基礎上。

都市土地也要改革

一九六四年台灣邀請來的聯合國專家就指出,到西元二千年,台灣都市人口將佔百分之六十七,鄉村土地改革雖然能暫時穩定都市人口,但並不能阻止都市人口增加。他們舉當時的紐約、底特律為例,因為缺乏遠大計畫,使下水道、道路一再改建、擴建而浪費,私人盲目的住宅投資使都市蔓延,即使花幾十億的公共經費,也不能使公共設施隨需要而增加。

政府雖曾多次修改都市計畫,例如一九六四年通過都市計畫法修正草案,希望進行都市更新、獎勵私人投資公共設施,與實施都市計畫變更必須在社區公告三十天的措施,展現局部修正台北的決心。

但都市計畫圖上,畫得出來的,不代表就開發得出來,都市更新、公共設施,最需要的經費,必須及早籌措。

可惜在修法過程中它卻被刪去預算,中央政府也並未把財源籌措列為重點。張景森認為,當時政府對都市計畫所能發揮的功能,其實並無太大的期望,既無財源、又無開發手段,「可以認定當局所要求都市計畫的實際功能並不是一個建設性計畫,而只是消極的管制性計畫」,張景森指出。

由於土地集中在少數人手上、公共設施用地被侵佔、政府又未準備相對經費徵收,更無法有效控制人口成長,只能放任都市自己發展。

台北可容一千萬人?

一九六七年,台北市正式升格為院轄市,次年將南港、內湖、木柵、景美、士林、北投六區劃入城內,人口增加到一百六十萬。一九七八年為聯絡南北交通、繁榮經濟的高速公路通車,一九八四年人口又增加到二百四十萬。

在都市計畫學者眼裡,都市無限制地膨脹,也就代表走上死亡。因此西方配合都市計畫的實質管制手段,是控制都市成長的容積率與土地使用分區管制規則。

容積率規定比照馬路寬度比例蓋房子,因此必須控制一定樓板面積,如此容納的人少,車流自然少,賣場也相對不會那麼大。但台北直到一九八三年才公佈分區實施容積率管制。

一九八一年後,台灣出現大量游資,加上國外資金湧入,政府在此時提出容積率全面管制,整個都市瘋狂搶建。尤其是新興的東區,忠孝東路每家每戶儘量把樓地板面積蓋到最大。高層建築如雨後春筍出現,期望藉此創造更多商業空間,賺取更多利潤,「忠孝東路變成兩堵圍牆,沒有一個喘息的地方」,實踐學院講師李清志說。

整個都市土地的使用以土地炒作為「志向」。許多地區在建商與地主合作下,也忙著改建與翻修,目的不是為了社區發展,而是為了地主的荷包。舊有社區也相對瓦解,加上大量的城鄉移民,人際關係也更疏離。

戰後國民政府撤退帶來的逃難人潮在鐵路旁、公共用地上搭違建。接著第二波、第三波,七○年代城鄉移民也佔領許多空地。八○、九○年代地價狂飆,造成小坪數住家合法購買、違法擴建。到今天,看不到違建,已經「不算台北」。

等九三年容積率全面實施,「算一算,今天台北的容積率可以容納一千多萬人了」,台北市都市發展局科長林欽榮說。

公共設施必須以幾何級數成長

所有的動作都慢了好幾拍。國外共同歸納出來的經驗,是人口快要到一百萬前就應做地鐵,我們卻到兩百多萬以後才開始進行。

人口快速增加與經濟迅速發展,兩者相乘之下,人與人互動所需要的文教、交通、休閒設施,不是以倍數而是幾何級數增加。

但土地漲價歸私、政府財源不足,都市綠帶變成都市金帶,任何計畫都很難避免變更的壓力。都市計畫圖上,台北交通系統、公園綠地、文教需求等設施,不但沒有相對增加,每個人分到的公共設施比例反而大量減低。

市政府對台北發展的最新規劃是未來將容納三百五十萬人。「如果要降低公共設施比例,大家互相忍耐苟活,台北要規劃多少人,當然都可以」,景觀規劃專家郭中端說。

台大城鄉所教授黃世孟形容,公共設施就像人體身上的微血管,人口多到讓身體滿滿胖胖的,卻缺乏道路、水源等設施,就像心臟無力輸血一樣,「公共設施是保持城市能良好運作的馬達。」

但公共設施經費編列太少,又開發太慢。過去都市計畫原本規定公園、體育場所、廣場、兒童遊戲場,佔用的土地面積不得少於計畫面積十分之一,今天台北卻被稱為「公園淪陷市」。都市計畫圖上,大商場不斷增加;偌大一個台北市,除了省立博物館,連一所供教學用的自然展示館都沒有。

投機者的天堂,冒險家的樂園

台大城鄉所教授夏鑄九也指出,我們工業化、都市化的過程中,和先進福利國家最大的不同,就是作為工業發展主力的勞工必須有休閒,才能保證工作品質的提升;但我們提供的各種休閒設施如公園等等卻是不足的。都市壓力大,公共設施不足,上下班擠車,每個人心情都不好,「為什麼飆車?為什麼玩大家樂?正因為沒有什麼好玩。」

台灣過去作為低廉勞動力的提供者,各種地下服務業、攤販也陸續出現。台灣四個人中有一個人是老闆,作生意的方式又喜歡在平面上——都擺在一樓或地下室,土地使用分區管制就容易發生破綻,於是色情入侵住宅區,住宅區變更餐廳使用,台北也變得越來越不適合居住。

地下經濟活動旺,百分之六十的行業都在變動、嘗試。街頭商店三兩天就重新裝潢,每個人都以最低的投資在經營生意,免得虧老本,安全措施、設備被刻意忽視,政府政令也很難貫徹,只有靠消費者自覺。

一九八○年後,由於資本放到土地炒作比製造生產高,為要求更大流通與回收,許多資金都流向服務業,大的經營大商場,小的經營餐廳、KTV。

台北因此充滿活力卻伴隨著混亂,成為冒險家的樂園、投機者的天堂。都市計畫也就更產生不了作用了。

這樣的情況下,「台北的都市政策卻沒做什麼,看起來只有順應輿情,住宅區允許商業進入,允許違規使用,執法上具彈性」,台大城鄉所規劃研究員鄧宗德說。

我們需要的是空地!

在迫切需求下,經費比其他縣市充裕的台北市,雖然公共設施只開發了一半,但大致上都市計畫中的公共設施用地近年都已徵收。然而整個城市以商業發展為第一,加上土地炒作者的壓力,政府的公共設施常和土地分區管制有所衝突,給人因地製宜之感。

天母大葉高島屋是近來都市計畫公共用地商業化的最新例子。在日本住了近二十年的郭中端說,日本學校旁邊不可能出現大百貨公司,大葉高島屋卻和小學、住宅區緊緊相鄰,未考慮開發後的公共設施需求,商場一完成立即造成交通衝擊。

「現在台北需要的是空地」,黃世孟著急地說,大家想趕走佔用公地的空軍總部、台鐵機場、兵工廠,可是滿腦子想的都是要蓋房子、發展商業區。三百萬人的大台北,連最後一塊洩洪區關渡平原,也成為開發者覬覦之地。

市區不斷膨脹,為了預防與紓解市中心人口,政府五○年代也曾試著規劃三重、永和為花園都市,但缺乏全面控制,人口瞬間爆滿。如今舊市區更新困難,便一直規劃新市鎮;但公共設施等未配合,新市鎮吸引人口的計畫往往失敗,國土也不斷被糟蹋。

遠東百貨是住宅區?

沿襲自日本的都市計畫,在土地炒作、地下經濟猖獗中,百病叢生。日人沿襲至西方的規劃並未實質瞭解本地人生活,幾乎把整個西區都劃為塊狀商業區,卻沒有被充分利用,樓下做生意,樓上都成為住家,東區仁愛路卻出現蓋在住宅區用地的遠東百貨公司,每個月以繳罰款繼續營業。

六○年代,西方的都市計畫已經不是日據時代日人看到的都市計畫,而是加入了都市設計的觀念,先把每個不同區域定位出來。除了各種公共設施配置外,建築高度、樣式都加以限制,讓城市不易失控。

但隨著時間發展,我們並未去好好檢討我們的都市計畫。雖然日本人學到的都市計畫「也只是皮毛」,資深的建築學者李乾朗不諱言,但日人建城市起碼有自己的觀點,比較起來,今天台灣的城市「最沒有水準」。

「今天我們用的都市計畫太簡化了」,李乾朗說,計畫圖上把台北市畫幾條街道,圖幾塊紅的,表示商業區,再塗幾塊黃的、綠的,就是都市計畫。用膚淺的數值、面積來劃分不同區域,空間的控制自然很差。

於是不管什麼區,不顧景觀,都可以亂蓋;都市計畫又因人可以亂做改變。日據時代起碼騎樓還規定一樣規格,今天同一條街上的騎樓卻高高低低,招牌各行其是。

平面的都市計畫,加上近幾年追趕著做公共設施,工程品質因此很糟糕,安全、景觀都被犧牲。「總的來看,台北的都市政策就是沒有政策」,文化大學建築與都市設計系副教授吳光庭也認為。

可是,今天台北的面貌,有沒有另一種可能?

從長安城到台北城

清朝建台北城,原本是中國古代規劃城市的觀念,它只完成行政中心。如果它能全部完成呢?

中國最早的「都市計畫」見於周禮〈考工記〉,書中提到,都城的營造,要做正方形,每邊長九里,各有三門,城中有縱橫垂直交錯的大道各九條,城內左方建築太廟,右方建築社稷壇,前是朝廷,後是商業中心。

雖然歷代都城並沒有嚴格依照考工記設計,但城市大體的定則,設有城牆、壕溝,納民於城,除了安全顧慮,也便於管理。

對應今天城市建築與商業結合,天際線被摩天大樓佔據;傳統中國城市裡最重要的建物,是象徵歷史時間與土地空間的祖社、象徵文治武德的文武廟、象徵教育的太學與書院,與培養人才管道的貢院。有了這些建築,城市才是天地間一塊有文化的土地。

依此規模,行政中心京城、省城、府城一級級類推,不僅長安城,元代建大部(北京)、甚至清朝在台北建城,多少都依此規格營建,只是依城市等級,規模有大小之分。

「清朝建台北是很慎重的」,李乾朗說,它選擇在兩個商業區中間建城,然後築城市最重要的天后宮、書院、考棚等等。「基本上不像今天,沒有什麼想法。」

傳統城內則有一條以中心御道與宮殿組成的中心軸線,具有廣場性質,國家大典、迎接朝貢儀式,都在此舉行。唐朝長安城就是正長方形的廓城,對著中央的皇宮是長安城最寬大、南北向的朱雀大街,街寬三百步。

長安交通系統就以朱雀大街為主干,再以劃格子方式將城內土地劃分為不同的里,坊內小路稱巷、曲。與日本引進西方為了讓城市更有張力而設置的圓環,由今天看來,長安城的棋盤街廓確實較有利於交通,圓環在今天常常造成交通阻塞而被拆除。

棋盤式的街廓和西方五○年代考慮汽車交通曾經提出所謂「大街廓」的概念性質相同,因此也有人說唐朝長安城看來滿前衛的。

李白與李娃的困擾

當台北人苦於色情行業侵入住宅;住家樓下的餐廳不時油熱煙燻,不小心就有火災之際;〈考工記〉中,商業區的區位是被考慮獨立出來的。唐代長安城就在城東、西各規劃了一個市,就像今天美國與住家分開的商場一樣,幾乎所有商業行為都集合在這兩塊地區,東市稱「都會市」,西市稱「利人市」。由絲路與各地來的「外國人」,雖然讓長安顯得華、洋雜處,但卻鬧中有序,不少外國人開的店鋪被安排在西市內;所謂「斬之於市」,政府宣傳政令、處死罪犯也都在最熱鬧的市上。

長安的商業區,還按時關門,日初啟、日暮閉。中國詩仙李白不時「長安市上酒家眠」,因為他只能在市裡買醉;詩人又常一醉不起,過了夜禁時間,不得不被關在市上酒家裡過夜了。據說今天中國人習慣說「買東西、買東西」,就是傳襲自長安城民只能到東、西市去「買東西」。

除了東、西市,長安人則居住在不同的「坊」裡,每個格子狀的社區裡也都築有圍牆,過了黃昏就關門,今天的八大行業不可能在坊裡出現。

李白為商業區的門禁所限,《李娃傳》裡,李娃到別的社區與人話家常,快到規定關門的時間,就有人提醒她,再不走,就回不去了。雖然台灣的住商混合問題多多,但夏鑄九在一次演講時就開玩笑說,今天許多台北人在唐朝長安城恐怕也是活不下去的。

事實上,顧慮到居民生活所需,長安城每個里坊裡還是有米舖、肉市等與生活日用品相關、但和社區生活不衝突的商店,夜禁也不如商業區嚴格。

成長管理

中國城市規劃者很早就知道,城市受經濟、政治、社會因素影響,規模不易掌握。因此為了應付都市無限制膨脹,不論平地上規劃起來的國都、省城,或是人民先聚集、而後形成的聚落,築城的人往往都會把城池圍得比需要大很多。

唐朝長安城,西南面幾個格子狀的坊裡居住人口都很少,顯示還有不少可發展的空間;福建泉州城,在一九四五年經航空測繪訂正的地圖上,也仍有四分之一是空地;作家胡耐安曾說,南京城的佳勝處,便是在市廛塵擾裡饒有鄉村景物。

「城中留有空地耕種,具有持久性的防禦備戰與城市發展雙重功能」,中央研究院社會科學研究所研究員劉石吉認為,這樣的做法具有「成長管理」觀念。

就不知道台北還來不來得及,把市內所剩無幾的空地關渡平原、社子島等也保留下來,讓台北的後代子孫還有喘息機會?

〈考工記〉的城市規劃,是中國人第一次對城市有所想像,但就像今天的都市計畫,理想與實際總會有出入。當百萬人口聚集的長安,商業交易需求越大,城市不再只是政治城市。再加上因為區位或經濟條件自發而興的城市,到了宋朝,中國城市也出現了類似今天台北不那麼井然有序、繁華熱鬧的面貌。

天下熙熙,皆為利來,天下攘攘,皆為利往的汴京、杭州,自然與住得寬敞,街道乾淨、安全,沒有夜生活的長安城不同。

夏鑄九認為,城市佈局往往是時代產物,沒有所謂好不好,不論長安嚴格的坊、市分區制度,或宋朝住商混雜的城市,不同的文化、不同的城市,有不同區分空間的手段。

但傳統城市的建立有一套想法,城市經營比較精緻,也重視美感經驗的處理。夏鑄九喜歡舉今天台北中山南路上的清朝東城門景福門為例,雖然被拆掉重蓋,但是景福門的屋脊樣子還在,今天從中正紀念堂的角度往北看,景福門屋脊和七星山山峰構成一個美麗的角度。清代蓋台北城時,是看過風水的,也就是選擇城市方位時,注意到城市與天地和周圍自然山川的關係。

傳統城市講究「面朝後市」、坐北朝南,不是只為了南面而王,更重要的,這樣的方向最適合華北的光線、風向,城市才能讓人住得舒服。今天的人不重視方位,因為今天住台北的人是不需自然光線的,反正都有電燈。

英國現代城市計畫家愛得蒙.培根曾說,「也許地球上人類最偉大的單項作品就是北京」,過去的北京、長安能讓中國人在世界都城規劃擁有一席地位,因為帝王時代的規劃,一樣需要考量人民實際生活的需要。西漢晁錯營建新城時就先考察水質優劣、土地的瘠饒,城市建築有關的街道、住宅、墓地、祭祀場所、醫療設施,「如此所以使民樂其處而有長居之心。」

城市是給人用的

我們看得到的城市空間,是與文化有關的。今天的城市,反映的是經濟發展與過度享受的重商文化。重視物質生活不是不對,但太過了,人們考慮的已不是住得舒不舒服,而是有沒有經濟效益。它的空間因此反映出它是個投機城市,不是個給人用的城市。

今天不再是唐朝,也很難再有大規模、漂亮的都市計畫,徵收土地困難等等因素,也使都市經營程序變得很複雜。但回頭看看,有許多問題在台北發展過程中原本是可以預防的。

也難怪學者說「可惜清朝建城並未真正完成」,它只進行了第一步,尚未開始打像長安城的細格子,安排街坊、住宅區進來。

沒有人敢說今天的台北如果能按照傳統中國城市規劃,就會比較像個人住的地方,今天台北人住進了長安城,城市還是會有不同面貌。只是今天台北的漫無章法,讓人希望有另一種可能。

東海大學建築系副教授洪文雄說,沒有任何一個都市計畫是永遠適合每個時代、城市的,現代社會的都市計畫、發展又應該是什麼樣子?每個國家也都在摸索、嘗試中,每個都市計畫也都會有失誤,無法百分之百達成。

在引用大量西方城市經驗下,今天台北也在醞釀自己的性格,雖然空間展現前所未有的零亂,但它的動力十足。洪文雄說,他常告訴學生,也許可以把台灣都市的亂象看成這個社會尚未定型,也因此還有機會去建立自己的系統。

也許這也是台北該嘗試摸索一個適合它自己都市計畫的時候了。

〔圖片說明〕

P.6

四面環山,淡水河川流而過,日據時代坐擁自然山川的台北州,如今已成建築林立的台北市。下圖為日據時代的台北地圖,日人心中的重要建物都標示其間。(下圖林漢章提供)

P.8

所謂「現代城市」,就是為汽車設計的都市?環河高架道路阻斷了人與河流,也破壞了都市景觀。

P.10

「松江詩園」是台北少數結合社區,營造出令人愉悅景觀的開放空間。(天下雜誌提供)

P.11

公園、綠地等公共設施不足,使得許多學者疾呼「台北今天最需要的是空地!」可是建築物滿滿的台北,又有工地要開工了。

P.12

市立美術館是台北重要的文化休閒設施。(薛繼光攝)

P.13

除非從平地規劃起,否則不易出現大規模、井然有序的都市計畫。過去唐朝長安城的棋盤式街廓,在學者眼裡,很適合今天以汽車為主的城市規劃,圖中朱雀大街有一百多公尺寬。

P.13

唐代長安城規畫圖

資料來源:中國古建筑與都市繪圖:李淑玲

P.14

高樓林立,車流橫行,哪裡是都市小孩安全的遊戲場所?(邱勝旺攝)

P.16、17

(左、右圖)今天的台北,有大量城鄉移民與穿西裝、受西式教育的上班族:企圖成為有效率的國際都市,也希望更具人文氣息。這樣的台北,如何進行它的城市規劃?

相關文章

近期文章

EN

If Taipei Had Been Designed in the Tang Dynasty ……

Chang Chin-ju /photos courtesy of Vincent Chang /tr. by Phil Newell

Taipei is the city in Taiwan that is most competitive as an international center. For Taiwan to become a "regional operations center," Taipei's performance will be decisive. Taiwan's other major cities--such as Kaohsiung and Taichung--see Taipei as the trend--setter and follow its example. They too want rapid transit systems, huge skyscrapers, and enormous tax revenues.

Taipei has far more international resources than other cities. Transnational organizations send delegations, and foreign arts troupes perform there. It is the most diversified of Taiwan's metropolises. People from all over Taiwan go there to "make it big."

However, recently the German magazine Der Spiegel ran an article comparing the cities of Asia's newly industrialized nations and, citing environmentalists, called Taipei "a pigsty." Earlier, an English court deciding a custody battle ridiculed Taipei as not fit for human habitation.

In 1990 two American magazines, Fortune and Newsweek, did surveys of Asian cities, and concluded that Taipei is East Asia's "ugly duckling." It was criticized for inadequate infrastructure, polluted air, and abysmal traffic, with the final blow being: "Worst of all, it is truly ugly."

Whatever foreigners may think, Taipei residents are even more dissatisfied. Air pollution, ubiquitous sidewalk vendors, illegal construction, and illegally parked motorcycles make even walking about an annoyance. It is crowded, dirty, and over-burdened. Lin Ku-fang, a scholar of music, says that Taipei residents always react instinctively. If there is a traffic accident, the drivers jump out of their cars and fight it out. People run into each other and exchange angry glances. "There is neither the space nor the time for people to sit around and ponder things."

Taipei is also a place where construction is crude and lacks any aesthetic sense, where the first ones to tear down historic buildings come out ahead, and where residential and commercial space is mixed together chaotically. Hsia Chu-joe, a professor in the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University, describes Taipei as "sticky cake": Neither officials nor urban planners can do anything with it.

In fact, as early as the Tang dynasty China had a city (Chang'an) with a million people. Foreign urban planners have praised Chang'an and Beijing as being the best laid out cities in history.

Doesn't Taipei have urban planning, too? Why can't Taipei's problems be controlled by planning? What can Taipei, with its forest of skyscrapers and sea of automobiles, learn from traditional Chinese cities? How can Taipei's Chinese make their home suitable for a tranquil life and a prosperous future?


Taipei just had its 110th birthday.

How did this special municipality of the ROC, which is envied by some and condemned by others, get its start and develop into the place it is today?

The birth of Taipei

The Qing dynasty founded Taipei in 1879 on the basis of traditional Chinese methods for constructing an urban area. At that time there were already population concentrations in Tataocheng and Wanhua, and Qing officials chose to site an administrative center between these two commercial areas. Unfortunately, the dynasty only put up a few government buildings, and there was no further development.

In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan. The Japanese had come to Taiwan to stay. They demolished the Empress of Heaven Temple (built by the Qing court) and other symbols of Chinese culture. They employed what they considered to be the most modern urban planning methods, imported from the West. Not even in Japan proper did they have an opportunity to implement such a comprehensive urban design.

Western urban planning was at that time driven by the need to resolve problems that existed in urban concentrations following the industrial revolution. Problem areas included housing, health, hygiene, and recreation.

The Japanese paid particular attention to public health. They began by installing underground pipes and sewers, bringing the water from its source in Kung Kuan into the city center. Roads are another important prerequisite for a modern city, so in 1901 the colonial government implemented an "urban restructuring plan." It tore down the city walls, and built many six-lane roads (including what is now Aikuo East Road). Masonry from the city walls was used to lay sewers.

But the project that has had the greatest impact down to the present was the "Greater Taipei Metropolitan Area Plan." Announced in 1932, it provided the layout for a city of 600,000. Except for the addition to Taipei of six outlying districts (including Shihlin, Mucha, and Neihu) when Taipei was made a special municipality in 1967, modern Taipei is based essentially on that 1932 layout.

The Japanese rulers renovated the houses in Chinese residential areas (for reasons of public health). They also mapped out several residential areas for Japanese immigrants. Because the flow of Japanese into Taipei was slow and steady, the city's growth could be kept within the constraints of the plan.

Today, 100 years after the Japanese first arrived, Taipei's population of 2.7 million is more than five times the peak population of the occupation era (500,000). Yet Taipei's urban plan is pretty much the same.

One hundred years without change?

In 1949 the national government moved from mainland China to Taiwan. Those were chaotic times. The refugees thought they would only be in Taiwan temporarily, and in any case the government had neither its own plan for the city nor skilled city planners to draw one up. Indeed, it was not until 1954 that the Japanese handbook explaining Taipei's urban plan was even translated into Chinese.

Except for a couple of main streets along the route from the airport (Jenai Road and Chungshan North Road) beautified to impress foreign visitors and diplomats, other areas steadily got out of control. When the Japanese pulled out of Taipei, the remaining population was only 290,000. When the new wave of residents arrived in 1949, the population nearly doubled, and took over a great deal of land set aside for public works, especially parks. Since the government has long lacked any corresponding social programs to deal with these people, illegal structures from this period still remain on the sites of the future Number 14 and Number 15 parks.

When Kao Yu-shu became mayor of Taipei in the 1960s, his primary task was the removal of illegal structures. All cities have had problems with illegal structures. In many metropolises the problem is addressed by building housing for those with low and middle incomes. But in today's Taipei, governed by the recently elected Chen Shui-bian, policy is still focused on tearing the structures down.

The occupation of public land by illegal structures has prevented urban planning from playing an effective role. But, argues Chang Jing-sen, the executive director of Taipei's Department of Urban Development, the main reason for the loss of control over urban development has been the failure to implement land reform in Taipei. In his PhD dissertation he noted that when rural land reform was implemented in the 1950s, many landlords used their compensation money to buy urban land. During the four years it took to implement rural land reform, rents in major cities rose four- or five-fold, until control of the land was concentrated in relatively few hands.

So Taipei's urban planning has a weak foundation.

A lack of urban land reform

In 1964 UN experts invited to Taipei warned that by the year 2000 Taiwan's urban population would increase by 67%. They pointed to cities like New York and Detroit, where an absence of long-range planning meant that water and road systems had to be repeatedly dug up and rebuilt, leading to tremendous waste, while blind private investment in housing led to urban sprawl, so that even enormous investments in infrastructure could not keep supply in balance with demand.

Although the govenment frequently amended the city plan (for example, in 1964 it passed revisions to the urban plan to renovate the city and create incentives for private investment in public works), drawing up plans is not the same as implementing them. Urban renewal and infrastructure require money, which must be appropriated early and in large amounts. Unfortunately the budget for these items was eliminated, and the government never made funding for urban planning a major concern. Chang Jing-sen says that the government had little hope that urban plans could be effective, and was passive about both funding and planning.

With most land in the hands of a few landowners, no funding for infrastructure, and no control over population flow, the government had little choice but to let the city grow willy-nilly.

In 1967, Taipei was made into a special municipality (equivalent in rank to a province), and it incorporated several outlying districts, raising the population to 1.6 million. In 1978 the North-South Freeway was opened to traffic, making north-south travel much easier. Taipei's population shot up to 2.4 million by 1984.

Urban planners recognize that unrestrained growth can kill a city. Therefore urban plans in the West control growth through laws governing floor area ratio and zoning.

Controls on floor area ratio limit the floor space of residences to a certain ratio to site space, insuring that the number of residents remains low, and thus naturally reducing the number of vehicles and the size of local commercial sites. This policy was only put into place on a district basis in Taipei in 1983.

In the early 1980s, there was a great deal of idle capital in Taiwan and much foreign capital also flowed in. When the government raised the idea of limiting population density, the whole city (especially the "Eastern District") went into a frenzy of building, with everyone trying to build to the maximum floor space. Speculation began to govern urban land use. Landlords and construction companies worked together to develop districts in their own financial interests, and many older neighborhoods were broken up.

Waves of new arrivals into Taipei, starting in the later 1940s and continuing in the 1970s and 1980s, combined with the dramatic increase in land prices in the 1980s and 1990s, led to illegal expansion and construction of houses everywhere, so that now illegal structures are a normal part of Taipei life.

Though floor area ratio limitations were finally implemented in 1993, "the current limits would permit 10 million people to live in Taipei," says Lin Chin-jung of Taipei's Division of Urban Design.

Public works lose out to growth

Every step has come much too late. Foreign experience suggests that subway systems should be built when the population approaches one million; Taipei only began its mass rapid transit system when population exceeded two million.

Since the economy grew rapidly as the population increased, there was a multiplier effect, and not just a linear increase, in the demand for cultural, transportation, and recreational infrastructure. These all require public space.

But with profits from rising land prices going into private hands and inadequate funding on the government side, speculation was the order of the day. Any space that showed green turned to gold, and there were pressures to open all places to development. Not only did public facilities not increase in the plan, there was a dramatic drop in public space per capita.

Huang Shih-meng is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University (NTU). He likens public access areas to the circulatory system: They both must be kept open to insure the healthy functioning of the organism.

But funding for public works is limited, and development has been too slow. Past plans stipulated that the amount of space for parks, athletic fields, plazas, and playgrounds should be no less than one-tenth the total. But in Taipei the main commercial areas have been continually expanding so that now the Provincial Museum is the one and only display hall for natural science educational purposes in all of the capital.

A heaven for speculators

Hsia Chu-joe says that the biggest difference between Taiwan's industrialization and urbanization experience and that of advanced countries is that the space allotted for recreation (parks, etc.) in Taipei is too small.

Meanwhile, the underground economy and street vendors have proliferated. One in four Taiwanese is a "boss," and all of them want to have ground-level shops. This smashes efforts at zoning, and leads to things like brothels in apartment buildings and residences turned into restaurants, making Taipei less livable.

After 1980, idle capital, looking for higher returns, began to flow into the service industry. Big investors opened shopping centers, small ones started up restaurants and karaoke bars. Taiwan's cities are thus lively but chaotic places, and are heaven to the risk-taker and speculator, further undermining attempts at planning.

Under these conditions, "Taipei's urban policies bent to the prevailing winds, allowing commercial activities to spread into residential areas, turning a blind eye to illegal structures, and implementing the law 'flexibly,'" says Deng Tsung-de, also at NTU's Building and Planning school.

But in recent years, as Taipei has come into greater financial resources than other cities, public pressure has pushed the government to begin recovering some illegally occupied public land. But because the whole city thrives on commerce, and because of pressure from speculators, it seems that policy is unevenly implemented.

The most recent example of the commercialization of space originally planned for public use is the Takashimaya Department Store in Tienmu. Kuo Chung-juei, who lived in Japan for 20 years, says that in Japan they would never put a department store next to a school. But Takashimaya is next to a school and a residential district, creating traffic problems.

"What Taipei most needs right now is open space," says Huang Shih-meng. Everyone wants to expel the Air Force headquarters, China Steel, and military factories from land they occupy illegally, but all they can think of is turning it into commercial space. Developers are even greedily eyeing the Kuantu Plain, Taipei's last water release area.

Occupying residential land

During the Japanese era, the whole western part of Taipei was mapped out as a commercial area. But the Japanese did not understand the way local people lived. The western district is not fully utilized for commerce because Chinese prefer to shop nearer to their homes. Thus, for example, the Far East Department Store on Jenai Road has been illegally operating in that residential district for years, paying fines each and every month.

Moreover, "the urban plan we are using today is too simplified," says Hsia Chu-joe. It is just a road map with districts marked off in red, yellow, or green. But people can build with reckless abandon in all districts. If someone wants to destroy the overall view, there are no regulations to stop them. In the Japanese era they at least set norms for arcades, but on Taipei streets there are arcades at all different levels, with signs for businesses of all types.

Plans remain on paper. And with public infrastructure rushing to catch up, the quality of construction suffers, sacrificing both safety and aesthetics. "Taipei's urban policy is that there is no urban policy," concludes Wu Kwang-tyng, an associate professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Chinese Culture University.

Is there no other way?

From Chang'an to Taipei

But what if the traditional Chinese city plan envisioned in the Qing dynasty for Taipei--a plan that was half completed but left unfinished--could have been brought to fruition?

The earliest Chinese urban plan, from the Zhou dynasty (1122 BC to 255 BC), states that cities should be square, have three gates on each side and nine main roads running parallel both horizontally and vertically, and provide key sites for various temples and a commercial district.

While no city ever followed this plan rigorously, old towns were consistently walled and surrounded by moats, both for defense and to make them easier to manage. And unlike modern cities, where tall commercial skyscrapers blot out the horizon, the most important buildings in traditional cities were temples or centers of culture and education. Thus in imperial times not only the capital, but even provincial and prefectural cities, were all based more or less on a standard model, and differed only in scale.

"The Qing were very careful in building Taipei," says Lin Chien-lang. They wisely chose a site between commercial districts, and then built all the key structures--temples, schools, and cultural centers--first. "At least they weren't completely mindless like people today."

Traditional cities were built around an axis formed by the main roads and public buildings, which was like a plaza. Ceremonies took place there, and traffic revolved around this axis. Comparing these street patterns to the Western-influenced rotary-centered street patterns of Japanese cities, old Chang'an would probably still be more convenient. Chang'an long prefigured the concept of governing overall traffic flow, so that some say that Chang'an looks "progressive" even today.

Today, Taipei residential areas suffer from the invasion of the sex industry and fire hazards like restaurants. But in traditional cities commercial areas were set apart. In the Tang dynasty capital of Chang'an there were designated business districts, one in the east quarter and one in the west, where virtually all enterprises were concentrated. Businesses opened at dawn and had to close at dusk. The great poet Li Bai wrote "Sleeping in a Chang'an Wine House," describing how, when intoxicated, he and his friends would miss the curfew and have to spend the night in the tavern.

Meanwhile, residential areas in Chang'an were divided into "neighborhoods," each with its own wall. Disreputable businesses were forbidden to open in these neighborhoods. Taking into account daily needs, there was a rice shop and a market in each neighborhood to buy sundry items, but these were all businesses that did not conflict with the life of the neighborhood.

Controlling growth

Chinese urban planners have long known that it is difficult to control all the political, social, and economic factors in urban growth, so in all cities, large and small, the central or local authorities would include more space within the city walls than was immediately necessary. This was the case for both brand new cities built from scratch and also when walled cities were built around preexisting population concentrations.

In Chang'an, several neighborhoods were sparsely populated, indicating that the authorities had left room for unanticipated growth. It was discovered in 1945 when aerial mapping was done of Quanzhou in Fujian that one-fourth of that city was still open space. Liu Shih-chi, a researcher in the Sun Yat-sen Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy at the Academia Sinica, notes: "Leaving empty space on which crops could be cultivated had two functions: preparation for long-term defense and allowing for additional growth." This suggests an understanding of the concept of "managed growth."

Of course, as in the present, traditional city plans also suffered gaps between theory and practice. By the Sung dynasty, Chinese cities grew less orderly, and began to more closely resemble today's helter-skelter Taipei. Hsia Chu-joe suggests that a city's layout is the product of its times, and there is no eternal good or bad. The differences between orderly Chang'an and the tumultuous Sung era cities reflect different cultures and times.

Thus, for example, traditional cities in north China were supposed to face southward toward the imperial court. This was not only because the emperor was there, but also suited the angle of sunlight and the winds in northern areas, thus making the city a more comfortable place to live. Today people have little regard for placement, because they don't need natural sunlight: everything is electric.

A modern British city planner once said that "perhaps the greatest single work of mankind is Beijing." Beijing and Chang'an are the basis of the Chinese claim to fame in urban planning, because even in the imperial era they understood that it is necessary to consider the practical requirements of the lives of the residents.

Cities are for living

Today's city reflects a commercialized culture of economic development and hedonism. No one argues that material life is unimportant. But in excess, it leads people to overlook how to live in true ease. People no longer consider whether or not they live in comfort, but only whether or not there are economic benefits to be gained. Today's city is for speculation, not for habitation.

Obviously, we are no longer in the Tang dynasty, and it is not possible to enforce a perfect city plan. Problems such as compulsory purchases of land by the state and so on make urban planning a very convoluted process. Still, looking back, many problems could have been prevented in the development process. No wonder one scholar bemoans, "It's too bad the Qing city plan for Taipei was never fully implemented."

No one can say for sure that if Taipei were built on traditional lines it would be a more livable place. If Taipei citizens all moved into Chang'an tomorrow, naturally it would have its problems, too. It's just that the disorder in Taipei makes one long for an alternative.

Hung Wen-hsiung, an associate professor of architecture at Tunghai University, says that in fact there has never been an urban plan suitable for all cities in all times. "Every country is groping toward what modern urban planning and development should be, and there are flaws in all urban plans. Nothing is 100% perfect."

Taipei is still developing its own character, and although it is more chaotic than ever before, it is also dynamic. Hung says he often tells his students that they can see the chaos of Taipei as a reflection of a society in flux, giving hope that there is the opportunity to construct a better future.

Maybe now is the time for Taipei to settle on an urban plan all its own.

[Picture Caption]

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The Taipei of the Japanese occupation era-surrounded on all four sides by mountains and bisected by the Tanshui River-is now a forest of construction. The illustration below is a Japanese era map of Taipei, with those buildings dear to the Japanese specially marked. (photo below courtesy of Lin Han-chang)

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Is a so-called modern city simply one designed for automobiles? The elevated road on the riverside dike has blocked access to the water and ruined the view.

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"Sungchang Poetry Garden" is one of the few parks which merges together with surrounding neighborhoods to create open space with pleasing views. (photo courtesy of commonwealth magazine)

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The lack of parks and greenery in Taipei has caused many scholars to declare that what the city needs more than anything else is open space. But even in jam-packed Taipei, people are still building on new sites.

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The Taipei Municipal Museum of Fine Arts is one of the city's most important cultural venues. (photo by Hsueh Chi-kuang)

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Plan of Tang Dynasty Chang'an

source: Chinese Architecture and Town Planning/map drawn by Lee Su-ling

Unless you start with undeveloped land, it will be hard to bring about large-scale and orderly city planning. The chessboard layout of Tang dynasty Chang'an is very suitable for today's cities, where automobiles play a leading role. Its central Zhuque Boulevard was more than 100 meters wide.

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A forest of skyscrapers and a sea of cars: Where do the children play? (photo by Chiu Sheng-wang)

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(left and right) Today's Taipei has many newcomers from rural areas side-by-side with well-dressed Western-educated office workers; Taipei hopes to become an efficient international city while still retaining its cultural identity.

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