The subject of the tallest building in the world has always been ripe with architectural controversy. From the last minute spire of the Chrysler Building to the “vanity height” used to game the system. There’s an organization, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), that comments and ranks buildings but the Skyscraper Museum has come out with its own list which include buildings that have topped out but may not yet be open. The CTBUH waits for a building to be officially open.


Cat Village-cat1-Taipei-Untapped Cities-Dana Ter

As you pull up into the Houtong Train Station, an hour north of Taipei City in Taiwan, a huge rattan sculpture of a cat head with beady eyes welcomes you to this “Cat Village”, where approximately 100 stray but friendly cats roam the streets freely. Houtong Cat Village was once a sorry victim of the dying mining industry, whose population was a mere 100. In 2008, a local cat lover organized a team of volunteers to clean Houtong’s streets  to provide the numerous abandoned cats in the area with a better home. Over time, word of this peculiar community spread to bloggers, reporters and photographers, and the Houtong Cat Village was born. (more…)


For the architectural historian and Modernism enthusiast, the quasi-abandoned beachfront resort of Futuro and Venturo structures just north of Taipei is an essential and little-publicized pilgrimage. Located in the picturesque coastal Wanli district, the complex offers a glimpse into a bygone era’s optimistic futurism all the more bittersweet considering the site’s current dilapidated condition.


Treasure Hill Artist Village-view-Taipei-Untappe Cities-Dana Ter-001Treasure Hill Artist Village in Taipei, Taiwan

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been following the Sunflower Movement happening in Taiwan, a grassroots protest numbering into the hundreds of thousands, promulgated by the youth of Taiwan for more government transparency. Deeply rooted in the movement is the knowledge that democracy in Taiwan was hard-won. While the youth may not have lived through the horrors of the 2/28 Incident (also known as the White Terror), where 10,000-30,000 citizens were killed by the KMT party, they are keenly aware that their freedom of expression is at stake.

Not too far from the heart of the Sunflower Movement demonstrations on Ketagalan Boulevard is the Treasure Hill Artist Village, a former squatter community filled with artist residences and studios. Today, it’s an ecological sanctuary, historical site and art museum all at once, and merely one reflection of what has been creatively possible in Taiwan.


Local Roots NYC Winkler Partners 1

Walking out onto the roof of Winkler Partners Law Firm, arugula and strawberry plants frame the silhouette of buildings and mountain tops that make up the Taipei skyline. “Here’s my business card. That side is how I make money, the other is how I spend money,” says Robin Winkler, an American expat and our host for the day. The card states Winkler Partners Law Firm and the flip side reads Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association. His hobby, Wild at Heart, is the first environmental legal defense fund in Taipei, but his day job isn’t too bad either. The Winkler Partners office houses one of the first rooftop gardens in Taipei.  (more…)

A dish from the Modern Toilet restaurant in Taipei

The news has been packed this week with news about Los Angeles’ new poop themed restaurant called Magic Restroom Cafe that has toilets instead of seats, poop oriented food, and various restroom decorations. But the inspiration for the place is a wildly successful chain in Taiwan called “Modern Toilet.” We covered it this summer and Gene Weingarten, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post humor columnist called the article a “spectacular report about a new restaurant in Taiwan. Really, anything I say to prepare you for this would be insufficient. Enjoy.”