Comparative Perspectives On Treasure Hill Taipei


02 Nov 2017

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Le To Quyen


Due to the lack of space, many old areas and unused sites have been transformed into the public land for the need of the communities. The governmental and the non-governmental organizations have strongly promoted the revitalization of the city. The Urban Renewal has contributed to urban regeneration, urban rehabilitation, urban redevelopment, and urban revitalization. As the result of degraded urban land, Treasure Hill in Taipei had lots of problems. Before 2003, Treasure Hill was known as an illegal settlement. There was nothing there besides pollution and high risk of being rezoned. The process of preservation in Treasure Hill was supported by the government, organizations, scholars and public community. After the policy of preservation and revitalization, as the name Treasure Hill Artist Village (THAV), the artistic solution was a ticket to retain this place. The preservation and revitalization of Treasure Hill will be described in this paper under review historical documents systematically. There are two parts in the main chapter: the brief history and the four concepts. The history will describe political changes of the Urban renewal, especially about the preservation in Taipei and the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act. The four concepts are artivism, participatory community, urban acupuncture, and place-identity. These are the concepts which were operated with the specific projects. This paper will interpret the process towards preservation as a very complicated process. However, Treasure Hill is not as well-known as it should be because there were too little documents in English about it. Therefore this paper will offer the database for further study as well as a current look for those who had achieved in the past. There are summaries of historical review and Treasure Hill spectacular changing process from an illegal village into an artistic village. This paper is systematic literature in which the authors want to seek complete information.

Keywords: urban renewal, urban rehabilitation, Treasure Hill artist village, Artivism, preservation, urban acupuncture, place-identity


Treasure Hill (Bǎozàng Yán) as an example for study, is originally an illegal settlement, it was founded by the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) military veterans at the end of 1940's. Treasure Hill is located in Guan-Yin Hill and Hsin-Dian River in Taipei, next to the temple. This paper compared the perspectives on Treasure Hill in systematic literature review as well as many concepts that have applied in many projects until now. The GAPP (Global Artivists Participation Projects) is one of the successfully specific projects. The GAPP mentioned four main concepts in the period of urban redevelopment in the 1990s.

Four concepts OF the systematic literature review IN Treasure Hill, taipei.

History of urban planning in Treasure Hill was influenced by history of Taiwan. Due to the large number of immigrants, they started to build in squatters for accommodation in Taipei. The speed of urbanization doesn’t compete with the urban quality. The city planning policies have changed effectively in the 1900s as Urban Renewal and Cultural Heritage Preservation.

2.1 Urban renewal and rehabilitation

The relevant literature in the urban renewal section will describe the history of urban renewal and why the NGOs (the nongovernmental organizations) in Taiwan had a crucial position within the policies. The context of urban renewal started in 1949. "The history of urban renewal in Taipei can be divided into three different phases. The first phase emphasizes on the clearing of illegal housing, the second phase on renewing Military Dependent Villages, and the third phase on encouraging private capital in urban renewal projects" (Law et al., 2009, p.90). "The Urban Renewal Act was promulgated in 1998. This was a framework for market-led approach to the urban renewal. The act focuses on three scopes: reconstruction, renovation, and maintenance" (Law et al., 2009, p.94). Some of the main scopes are reconstruction or rehabilitation. "The approach has the specific campaigns as a combination of slum clearing, redevelopment and preservation" (Law et al., 2009, p.109). "In 2006, the government activated two-year project for preservation at Treasure Hill" (Law et al., 2009, p.111). For the campaign in clearing slum, the government offered three options in a democratic process. Firstly the government paid NTD 720.000 in cash for the households which would move out permanently. Secondly the government paid NTD 360.000 for households which would return after construction. Those households were requested to pay the rent only for the next 12 years. Lastly the houses could be returned to the residents once the government had no need of them anymore. The campaigns of redevelopment and preservation had also many effective solutions.

The situation around 1989 was a lack of affordable housing. There was a high level of participation from NGO. Until 1993, "The government decided to transfer the case from the Department of Park and Recreation to the Bureau of Cultural Affairs. The Bureau of Cultural Affairs then commissioned OURs to undertake the task of planning and managing the property by giving the organization a small operating budget" (Chau, 2009, p.62). The two nongovernmental organizations are Tsuei Ma Ma foundation and the organization of Re-s (OURs). These organizations have efforts in seeking affordable housing, the city’s effort in clearing away squatters in parks. There are many programs: Treasure Hill Homeland, Artivists in Residency Program, International Youth Hostel. According to "Mr. Wong, the general secretary of OURs, he revealed that the strength of OURs is in its network of contacts within the universities and the government"(Chau, 2009, p.66). Furthermore, the role of Tsuei Ma Ma intended either to help students in finding the low-income housing through message boards or to run the online evaluation report, which assesses the various moving companies within Taipei. "Tuei Ma Ma’s emphasis on showcasing its performance was effective in building trust between the government and the citizens" (Chau, 2009, p.75).

2.2 Preservation in Taipei and Participatory Community Design

In the late 1960s, the process of revising the Preservation Act of Antiques had been carried out cultural priority of Taiwanese Taiwanese government awareness. The Cultural Heritage Preservation Act was effective from May 26, 1982. The 1990s, the beginning of Taiwan’s chapter was "era of localism" [1] . The Preservation focused on some issues such as Heritage, Identity and Community Building. "In 1993, in order to legitimize the nation-state, local government held festivals spotlighting products or attractions with local distinctiveness, local groups participated in the recollection of local memories, and architectural and planning professionals worked on the conservation of historical buildings "(Chiang, 2012, p. 25). More and more the local museums and heritage sites proposed and recognized from the 1990s. The emerging trend of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act was the 'rehabilitation' after the revision in 2005. "Rehabilitation, under the Urban Renewal Act, is conceived as one kind of urban renewal projects." (Law et al., 2009, p .109) The idea of the Integrated Community-Making Programme consisted of projects as 'Rehabilitating Unused Spaces' and 'Local Museums'. In 1993, the president Lee Teng-hui launched the ‘living community', which highlighted an original point of identity. In 1997, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act was reformed in the classification of Guji (historic monuments) in order State, Provincial and Zhixia Municipal Government and Municipal Government from ‘historic significance’ to ‘administrative hierarchy’. The 'Rehabilitating Unused Spaces' supports to restore the vacant old buildings, warehouses, or accommodations. In the case of Treasure Hill, the process of reusing the old village was renovated for arts groups by the Department of Cultural Affairs. Besides, the concern with the 'Rehabilitating Unused Spaces', the Wu's study researched the advantage and the place that effected on the improvement and self-examined. Its preservation contributed how to create unused spaces or unoccupied spaces effectively without losing the original features. [2] 

In the 1990s, the city stood out the community-building movement, Taipei City mayor Chen Shui-bian, including many scholars, Zhang Jingsen [3] ,"defined community participation as a thread of his urban planning policy"(Chiang, 2012, p. 37). In 1989, over 50,000 citizens as well as the academic join to contribute their ideas for the need of the affordable housing in Taipei. Besides, the project attracted a large number of mass participation as citizens, students, the academic, the social organization, scholars, artists... The applied programs always consider community factors as GAPP, so that the maximum community participation. Maintaining balance "their relationship with the city, the community, the environment, and themselves" (Kang, 2006, p. 6).

2.3 Artivism: the role of arts in regeneration

The role of art was highlighted practically. "Art might be a ticket to permanent residency" (Kang, 2005, p. 5). "Artivism is a conscious combination of art and activism, and is adopted to demonstrate a more radical approach and value-loaded attitude to engage in social-spatial issues through arts projects"(Kang, 2005, p. 5).

Treasure hill got their legal rights through artivism. Artivism was applied in a lot of programs (as GAPP, Global Artivists Participation Projects). This strategy was too difficult to compete between urban planning and culture conservation. The project successfully convinced both urban planning committee and historical heritage committee in preserving the community value as an artistic village instead of a public park. Artivism attempted to attract community participation and environmental art. Artivism "seems to be a creative and constructive tool to serve the social purposes of activism or to build place identity from the bottom up"(Kang, 2004, p. 154). GAPP found "the creative power of art as well as the heightened tension between the community and art"(Kang, 2006, p. 3). The chaos of the village is the source of artivism. Treasure Hill was recognized as an artistic village which had been formerly artless, "the settlement's artistic potentials for the public good and the original squatters as an integral part of the unique and artistic milieu" (Kang, 2006, p. 3). The plan of GAPP tried to reduce the high-level concept in art in order to attract the community participation. They established workshops to create art for studios, posters, cafes, collective bookstores, waterfront organic gardens and farms; however the local residents still had their own image for marketing city. This strategy encouraged an aggressive intervention to avoid disordering an available community. "Comparing with general public art or installing art in a community, the concept of community artivism focuses less on artists and artworks than the community itself"(Kang, 2004, p. 155). The project was performed by real people based on true stories about the daily lives of the residents in the past and nowadays. The following projects were a few projects in GAPP such as Organic Layer Taipei, the Other Home-land theme, Asia 108, the Street Gallery of Treasure Hill Flood Images, the Ethnography and Chorography Film Festival, Blue River, Treasure Hill Environmental Theatre Series, Garden Portraits Project... This paper mentions not only artivism but also the process of the conservation and preservation. The process of conservation was initialized from illegal to legal, from squatter to an artistic village. Art may not achieve much visual value, but the power of art may save a squatter community as a point of conservation.

2.4 Urban acupuncture: The Organic Layer Taipei's project

Marco Casagrande is one of the main architect-landscape artists in Finland. In 2003, he participated in THE ORGANIC LAYER PROJECT which belonged to the GAPP project. "In his work he is focused on the research of environmental technology solutions as the basis of site specific urban ecology. Casagrande represented Taiwan in this year’s Venice Biennale (2006) in the Taiwan Pavilion exhibition Paradise Revisited, curated by Roan Chin-Yueh" (Marco, 2006, p. 6). The human energy in Treasure Hill was extremely intense because of the pollution. However, the government had no concern about that.

"Taiwan is on the threshold of an urban ecological awakening (Marco, 2006, p. 1)." Taiwan is in the existing context over the industrial cities. Moreover, Treasure Hill is in the illegal, a chaotic community based on a physical location, a sensitive insight and personal social-ecological concern (Kang, 2004, p. 5). Treasure Hill had enough conditions to get a renovation as acupuncture. What rebirth the cleanup environment, the sustainable urban living and the rehabilitation of the post-industrial era, so-called Urban Acupuncture and The Third Generation. He recognized Treasure Hill as his concept of the attic where is not very important but kept the memory of a house. "Treasure Hill is the attic of Taipei. The memory and the link between the modern man and nature – human nature as part of nature" (Marco, 2006, p. 4).

The designs of TAIPEI ORGANIC LAYER PROJECT were interesting especially in the following elements such as the fire in 'The Fire in the Attic' performance, reality, a commensal and regenerative construction, flower/vegetable, bridges and speedways, waste and organic. The process of the project lasted over three weeks, beginning to clean from the garbage, building upstairs to connect the space and a small parade performed more and more the local residents and architecture students from Tamkang University and National Taiwan University joined in. This project attracted the extensive community's attention and gained governmental support. "For the very first time, the Bureau of Cultural Affairs of the Taipei City Government agreed in public that the illegal squatter residents" (Kang, 2005, p. 10). The conversation content between the Bureau and Casagrande was published in the China Times [4] . His research named "Ruin Academy: Towards the Third Generation City" (Taipei, 2010-) mentioned Treasure Hill as a case study for the third generation city, dominate the no-man’s land, the illegal architecture and orchid architecture. Moreover, he also considered The Taipei River Urbanism. It makes sense for the community along Hsin-Dian river where have always existed urban farming and community gardens. The government ruined the riverside farms, improved the river banks and built a bicycle track instead. Treasure Hill sits on a mountain and facing straight to south. These are ultimate conditions for the ability to use solar energy. "The banks of the nearby Xindian River are used as platforms for highway bridges leaving the ground level open."(Marco, 2006, p. 5) The banks of XinDian River and Danshui Rivers are used as urban wind energy farms. His project is completed with the solutions MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment). MBT is the natural friendship of bio waste treatment by using anaerobic bacteria. This system can produce bio gas later on to be conditioned into electricity as well as gain fertile top soil for its farms (Marco, 2006, p. 5). Treasure Hill had got the possibilities of sustainable urban living to coexist with the natural environment.

2.4 Place-identity

The study focuses on the place-identity and self-identity and interrelation between them. Treasure Hill was such a squat and always in a state of relocation. The residents were struggling to gain legitimacy. The planning and projects also aroused the preservation movement. This study showed up how the self-help buildings made up the characteristics of the place in the private. Land was transformed into their soul like the place-identity. The research has traced the remaining of how the residents lived in the past in Treasure Hill, mainly for "the paradoxical psychology of management of the environment and the attachment to the land" [5] . "The fluidity of place identity"(Kang, 2004, p. 1) was also mentioned on "certain distinguishable, self-manifested idiosyncrasies of a place in terms of its spatial form" [6] . The place-identity is the connection between personal attachments with the landscape, culture and spatial narratives of the place. "Place identity indicates a type of resistance against such threats through conscious community empowerment, re-established grassroots confidence, and conservation of the vernacular authenticity."(Kang, 2004, p. 1)

When having the impacts from outsiders, they would emerge the psychological instability. The residents were worried about the danger of removing, reshaping the landscape, and destroying important sites of memory and a habitual living. Even though Treasure Hill would be a Historical heritage and preserved in the official announcement, the dramatic changes of the landscape had made the residents so confused, they were afraid of losing their place. They had competed for their accommodations by protesting, communicating, convincing, judging other neighbors to separate themselves (Kuo, 2007). After assessment and recognition themselves, the residents had reached to self- identity. The transition of the space was as well as the transition of new behavior were being transformed. The residents realized some active changes of the gaze of society, the first and most important thing was self-reformatted. This was the phenomenon which had made the residents change their deep awareness of the emblematical meanings of space-identity and place-identity. The space-identity and place-identity have contributed to self-identity.


The research method requires systematic literature review. This method is a process of planning the review, conducting the review and reporting the review (Kitchenham, 2004). The planning of review summaries the existing information thoroughly and selects evaluation criteria. The synthesis is data collecting from paper, document, historical database to analyze, from there to take a comprehensive look at the problem.

By setting the thesis, proposing research questions and trying to answer questions to observe many aspects of the existing problem in Treasure Hill, the conduct of the review includes identification, selection, assessment, data extraction and data synthesis. The databases are physical environment, history, social context, and the concept or theory appliance. The data collection will consist of surveys, recording of the scholar, documents, books, and relevant conference. The reporting of review is an important result of summaries from the database. The review recognizes the context of Treasure Hill before 1990s and since 1990s. The approach clarifies the stages of redevelopment, regulation of government, social, residence. The strategies and suggestions are proposed in each theory.


The result of this paper focuses on the concepts that were applied on the specific projects. The systematic literature review showed up four concepts. The Urban renewal and rehabilitation described in general the impact of the history, politics and policies on a fate better than disruption. In addition, Preservation in Taipei showed up the chances of the Act; and Participatory Community Design is a project which attracted significant community participation. Artivism which submitted the Artivist project is a fully worked-out plan to preserve an illegal settlement. Urban acupuncture and The Organic Layer Taipei's project drew up the potential of the third-generation, Treasure Hill as attic of Taipei, and a sustainable coexistence with the natural environment. Place-identity is basement of self-identity; Treasure Hill community has done self-identity on their ways. All of these lifted Treasure Hill to a new level to be appreciated and preserved.


This paper has collected almost all the previous studies. This paper systematizes the two forms of urban planning history in Taiwan which are Urban Renewal and the four applied concepts. The politic was changed, lead to economic change and city planning policy. These laws directly affect the areas; they promote Treasure Hill from an illegal settlement into a cultural heritage. There is the unity of objects including governments, academics, professionals, artists, organization and a synergy of the community. Treasure Hill as one example, has achieved success in the process towards urban redevelopment.


This study was supported by the Department Architecture and Urban Design, Chinese Culture University, Taipei, Taiwan. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my professor- Professor Huang, Kuang Ting for the academic knowledge and all the useful advices he has provided. I would also like to send my high appreciation to my friends for their kind help and encouragement. If it was not for them, the thesis would be impossible to complete.


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