Four Four South Village Recreational Complex, Taipei

The well-preserved houses on the backdrop of Taipei 101

photography by: Omri Westmark

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In recent decades, the Taiwanese capital has undergone a massive urban development where entire blocks of time-worn buildings are being demolished in favor of sleeker architecture. However, throughout Taipei one can also find a few enclaves of the city’s bygone era that managed to dodge the same fate. Conspicuous by its significance is the Four Four South Village, a well-preserved military dependents hamlet, with its own history museum, boutique shops and cafés, and sweeping views of nearby Taipei 101 tower.

Following the defeat of the Kuomintang-led forces by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, around two million people fled to the island of Formosa, where they established the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan. Among the newly-arrived refugees were thousands upon thousands of military personnel who in turn settled in makeshift villages across the country.


Regarded as Taiwan’s first military dependents settlement, Four Four South Village was established in 1948 in Xinyi District of Taipei. The village owes its name to the 44th Armory of the Joint Logistics, one of KMT’s four arsenals, where weapons were manufactured and stored. During its heyday, this densely populated townlet was home to members of the armory unit and their families who fled here from Mainland China.


The narrowly spaced houses were all hurriedly constructed from widely available materials such as bamboo, tiles, castoff lumber logs and limestone bricks. With neither private washrooms nor running water, conditions were harsh, somewhat akin to those of refugee camps. Over the years, the decaying complex became dwarfed by the city’s exponential growth around it.


When parts of the village were destroyed in a fire in 1999, real-estate developers alongside city officials were eager to bulldoze what was left of it to make room for a brand-new project. In light of its impending demise, a public outcry voiced by a group of local residents prompted authorities to revise their plans and preserve the site for its cultural and historical merit.


The now-restored village offers a glimpse into Taiwan’s rough birth. The exceedingly narrow alleyways and gritty buildings host a plethora of activities, including a museum, trendy cafés, a community center and a bookstore. Every weekend, the village’s main square turns into a second-hand market, offering knickknacks and local snacks.


Adorned with the beautifully-renovated façades of the former military dwellings, the square also serves as a striking vantage point of Taipei 101 skyscraper, the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2009.