Dome of Light, Kaohsiung – a Multicolored Spectacle

The Dome of Light at its fullest glory

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Up until the early 2000’s, Taiwan’s second largest metropolis, Kaohsiung, was a mostly industrial city whose drab streets earned it an unflattering reputation of being an unsightly place. That all changed in 2008, when the local MRT system was inaugurated, kickstarting the rebirth of Kaohsiung as one of Asia’s most livable cities. Adoring the ceiling of the metro’s busiest station is a dazzling work of art. Made entirely of colorful glass, the Dome of Light serves as the unrivaled centerpiece of the city’s entire subway.

When Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit was inaugurated in 2008, it not only revolutionized the city’s public transportation but also sparked a large-scale revival which ended decades of urban decay. As part of this massive project, a couple of stations were designed to far-exceed their utilitarian role. Located at the intersection of the orange and red lines, Formosa Boulevard Station might seem at first like a typical subway terminal, bustling with incessant influx of passengers all day long.


What sets this station apart from its mundane counterparts is a mesmerizing artwork that recently awarded it with the coveted title of “the world’s second most beautiful metro station”. As its name implies, the Dome of Light is the station’s beautifully lit glass dome, somewhat akin to the colored windows of a cathedral. With a whopping 4,500 individual glass panels across a diameter of 30 meters, the dome is considered to be by far the largest work of its kind.


Designed by Narcissus Quagliata, an Italian-born artist from Mexico, the vividly hued ceiling depicts the life-cycle of humanity and the cosmos with a dash of Taiwanese heritage. Quagliata’s work can be divided into four distinct quadrants, each of which is chronologically arranged to complete a bigger picture, replete with multiple figures. From the genesis, represented by the watery blueness; to the rapid growth stage and spirit of creation; and finally, the violent end, strikingly portrayed by red and yellow patterns.


Curiously, the ultra-decorated dome is also attributed with a message of love and hope that resonates with Taiwan’s recent history, or more precisely, events that took place just meters away. In the late 1970’s, following fierce resistance to his authoritarian government, the then Taiwanese president Chiang Ching-kuo promised to end the country’s 38 year-long one-party rule and introduce free elections.


When Ching-kuo rescinded his decision shortly after, massive protests swept through the entire country, culminating in a single demonstration in Kaohsiung, entitled the Formosa Incident. Took place a mere short distance from where the article’s protagonist is now located, the pro-democracy rally on December 10th, 1979, rapidly escalated into a full-blown skirmish with the police forces. Despite the government’s brutal crackdown of the protest, the incident triggered a chain of events that ended with Taiwan becoming Asia’s most liberal democracy.


Since its inauguration, the Dome of Light has become an eye-catching spot for pre-wedding photography as well as a pilgrimage site for curious onlookers. While this artwork is imbued with plenty of lofty messages, it is first and foremost a marvelous masterpiece to behold.