Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Taipei

The renovated buildings of Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Taipei

photography by: Omri Westmark

As any aficionado of art can tell, the metamorphosis of industrial zones into art districts has been a prevalent phenomenon around the world for some time now. With Taiwan’s culture of leisure becoming highly sophisticated in recent years, an increasing number of factories were in turn converted into recreational hubs. Nestled in the heart of Zhongzheng District, Huashan 1914 is a former winery that now serves as a full-fledged arts precinct, attracting artists and visitors alike.

As industries have been migrating to the fringes of big cities for the last couple of decades or so, closed-down factories all across Taiwan are now resurrected as enclaves of art and leisure, where local history serves as a backdrop for contemporary creativity.

 

Perhaps Taipei’s best example of this growing trend is a stylish recreational center in Zhongzheng District. As it names implies, Huashan 1914 Creative Park was founded in 1914, during the Japanese colonial era, as a privately-owned distillery, where rice and ginseng wines were produced. As the island’s colonial rulers monopolized the production of alcohol, the winery became under the direct control of the Japanese government and was later renamed as “Monopoly Bureau Taihoku Wine Factory”.

 

What first started as a lone liquor distillery soon expanded into an important industrial district with multiple facilities, including a camphor refinery, a smokestack and a fruit wine factory, just to name a few. Following the Japanese defeat in WWII, Taiwan’s newly-established ROC government seized control of the area, changing its name once again, to “Monopoly Bureau Taipei Wine Factory”.

 

In the years that followed, the distillery diversified its offerings, manufacturing also Taibai Liquor (cassava-based alcohol) and tobacco products, all part of a long-term strategy to stay relevant amid its ever-changing urban surroundings. Nonetheless, with an increasing concern due to pollution as well as soaring land prices, the factories were ultimately forced to relocate to the outskirts of Taipei.


In the following decade, the place changed its name to “Huashan District” and faced a complete demolition as authorities sought to erect the Legislative Yuan’s new building (the unicameral legislative body of Taiwan) at the premises. Amid massive protests by artists and local residents, the highly controversial plan was scrapped in favor of an arts district within the confines of the then abandoned factories.

 

Since its establishment in 2005, Huashan 1914 Creative Park has become a major venue for art exhibitions, cultural events and performances which take place inside the complex’s recently-renovated buildings, with the most notable of which being the Umay Theater. Peppered with a glut of whimsical sculptures and art installations, the park is also home to a growing number of trendy eateries, cafés, boutiques and knickknacks stores, where visitors can spend hours on end.

 

To make things even better, the complex is a mere short distance away from Central Art Park, a sculpture garden with dozens of oddly-shaped statues, including an oversized strawberry and a smattering of colorful totems.