Guallart Architects


Taiwan 2003

Local partner: J.M.Lin The Observer Design Group

1st prize international competition

Keelung is the port of Taipei, the capital of the island of Taiwan. Located 30 km to the north of the capital, it is one of the most important container ports in Asia. Keelung has all the vitality of a major port, with one of the most bustling night-time markets in the Far East and an extensive and multifarious central commercial area adjoining the port. The city nevertheless bears the traces of rapid economic growth. Its principal transportation infrastructures —roads, railway lines, and the port itself— continue to limit the creation of quality public spaces of in the downtown area.

In the light of this, the authorities invited projects as part of the plan to create new ‘Gateways’ in Taiwan, oriented toward defining the interaction between the port and the city. In fact, the fundamental issue to be resolved by the various projects drawn up during the different phases of the competition and in the subsequent construction scheme was how to identify the characteristics of a new central public space for the city with which the citizens of Keelung could identify. Historically, Asian cities have a strong tradition of use of the public space and a dynamic inside-outside relationship that has generated numerous instances of cities, neighbourhoods and residential or commercial sectors of great urbanity. However, the economic development of recent years seems to have oriented urban development toward public spaces more in line with the American model, based on the habitability of air-conditioned interior spaces or urban mobility based on the car that makes the car park one of the fundamental interchanges in urban life. This makes it difficult to identify significant urban spaces created in the last few years that respond to the traditional dynamic occupation of the public space. In Keelung is seeing the start of another process that is already present in most American, European and Australian cities, in which the port-city interaction is redefined in the interests of a greater public use of port spaces. In this way the historic port zones, which are normally in the proximity of central urban places, are ceded by the port to the city as a site for leisure and commercial uses, sports ports and even hotel and residential zones. Darling Harbour in Sydney, the Port of Boston or Port Vell in Barcelona are examples of such transformations.

A program to improve the urban quality of Keelung.

Keelung has emerged with notable success from the quantitative phase of its urban development. The strength of its economy, the youth of its population and the sustained growth experienced in recent decades have given rise to a vital and dynamic city. But this is not enough. It is time now to move on to the qualitative phase, of improving the quality of life of the citizens, of reordering the most important spaces and of creating an innovative, cutting-edge urban image. To achieve this purpose, architecture alone is not sufficient: this is the moment for urbanism, for concerted action that will establish relationships between the different pieces that make up the central space of the city.

Specific Strategies. To create a symbolic and functional centrality. A city is defined internally and externally by the strength and quality of its central space. Our proposal offers the opportunity of creating a more powerful and complex urban centre than will come to constitute Keelung's symbolic space and serve to project an image of the city to the exterior.

To reinforce the urban structure connecting the east and best of the city with a civil axis. The port has been until now, for all its social and economic usefulness, a disruptive element in terms of the urban organization of Keelung. The different parts of the city are functionally segregated by the impact of infrastructures and traffic. A new and more effective link between the East and West zones of the city will assist in integrating the space of production and relation (East) with the access infrastructures (West), promoting the functional and economic complementarity of both, giving continuity to the canal and generating the axis of force that the city has historically lacked.

To obtain new spaces of public amenities. A city assumes its real significance for its citizens when it has a network of amenities that satisfies not only the basic needs but also the demand for sports, culture, contact and other analogous needs. The image of modernity is closely associated with these functions, which in Keelung are still only an incipient presence. Our proposal links the access infrastructures with the zone of amenities around the Cultural Centre, creating new facilities that will serve to reinforce the centrality of the space.

To reinforce relational uses. The structural base of a city is, much more than its streets and buildings, the set of human relationships that are created and developed within it. The city is an accumulation of complex functions and relationships between people, so that limiting it to commercial spaces implies a reductionist perception of the urban phenomenon. The new amenities and leisure spaces, the effective pedestrian link between the different urban sectors and the bridge itself constitute the bases on which centrality will be reinforced by the intensity and dynamism of the human relationships it accommodates.

To reorganize the transport area. In the West zone of the area of intervention the three main transport infrastructures of the city converge. The solution that is envisaged for this space is not confined to embracing their existence as such, but seeks to facilitate the uses that these infrastructures induce and require, spatially organizing their satisfactory distribution and functional integration in the ways that are most convenient for the commuters and proposing cultural and leisure uses that will extend beyond the usual commuter timetable to avoid the risk of it losing its vitality and becoming marginalized.

To restructure the area of socio-cultural amenities. In the West zone there are a variety of cultural, administrative and commercial facilities whose integration is problematic, because of the difficulties in the way of pedestrian movement. At the same time there is a need to generate new uses and functions that will reinforce the relational contents of the public spaces, in order to provide a qualitatively richer urban framework for the citizens. This entails the restructuring of the area of amenities to the East of the port and the incorporation of new functions.

To extend the area of pedestrian connection. In spite of living from the sea and with the sea, the people of Keelung are confronted by major obstacles when it comes to enjoying it, in view of the impact of vehicular traffic on the seafront and the very limited space that has been reserved for pedestrian circulation. To overcome this obstacle we propose a solution that not only improves the flow of pedestrian circulation but also generates a space that, as in all of the best operations for the restructuring of city-port interfaces, permits the creation of a rest space where people can enjoy contemplating the sea and the bustling activity of the port.

First proposal

The solution proposed in the first phase of the competition posited the option of going beyond the original limits of the port to expand the city out over the water, creating a pedestrian bridge and a series of associated platforms. This would serve as an autonomous urban space, set apart from the traffic routes that skirt the edge of the sea, and reinforce the east-west axis of the city, connecting the train station with the municipal museum and the city hall. This solution also served to create a spacious maritime public plaza for water-related leisure activities. The bridge would have a metal structure on piles sunk into the seabed, with a central swing section to let masted boats into the central sheet of water. The municipal authorities considered the scheme to be very interesting, but it was sidelined because it exceeded the limits of actuation agreed with the port.

The second proposal

Which won the competition, was confined to the line of actuation set by the port authority. Nevertheless, it raised the possibility of this line being a dynamic boundary by creating various floating timber platforms which could be separate from the principal platform to allow a more relaxed use of the public space on the basis of a fragment distributed by the sheet of water. These platforms would accommodate a tea house, a landing stage for kayaks and a small auditorium, making it possible to reconfigure the line of the coast according to the particular events to be held there.

The third proposal

On which the construction project is based, assumed a fixed coastline, centring the design on the creation of a dynamic line between the urban edge and the platform, reworking ideas developed in previous projects. In this case, having analysed the functioning of the various activities that come together here, the scheme proposes a pergola that provides a covered walkway extending from the commercial zone to the station, dynamically expanding this structure by way of the wooden platform. This pergola, created with a linear pattern like the tentacular fronds of a marine plant, is folded both vertically and horizontally to generate rest spaces on the seafront and to spell out the word K-E-E-L-U-N-G on the urban front. This new timber platform will thus act as an icon similar to those ferry terminals in which the name of the port is eye-catchingly displayed.

The timber platform also has a garden of wooden ‘rocks’ that will be replicated in the Ocean Plaza in Batoutz. In this case, the traditional Oriental rock gardens is materially transformed to become folds in the surface of the public space, inviting people to relate to them physically in various ways; a similar are appropriation has been made of the outcrops of volcanic rock on the neighbouring coast.


Date: 2003
Main architects: Vicente Guallart, Maria Diaz
Local partner: J.M. Lin The Observer Design Group

Collaborators: Dirk Barchstaedt, Christine Bleicher, Magnus Lundstrom, Rodrigo Landáburu, Melissa Magallanes, Ester Rovira, Manuel Shvartzberg Michael Strauss, Ricardo Guerreiro
Work models: Christine Bleicher
Models: Fabián Asunción, Soledad Revuelto, Ángel Luis Gaspar, María José Bizama, Ruth Martín
3D: Lucas Cappelli + net-architects. Lucas Jagodnik, Julieta Serena, Mariano Castro, Horacio Suaya, Martin Eschoyez, Franco Cappelli.
Images: Laura Cantarella, Sabine Mayer
3D images: Néstor David Palma, Lucas Cappelli + net-architects. Lucas Jagodnik, Julieta Serena, Mariano Castro, Horacio Suaya, Martin Eschoyez, Franco Cappelli.


Tourism: Jose Miguel Iribas.
Sustainability: Rafael Serra Florensa. UPC.
Solar energy: Oscar Acebes. TFM.
Structure: Willy Muller, WMA.
Port engineering: Vicente Cerdá, UPV
Crystallographic advisor: Albert Soler
Pictures of rocks: Universitat de Barcelona.
Chinese translation: Lin Yi.
Chinese culture: Li-An Tsien