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Taipei’s old North Gate focus of urban redevelopment and restoration drive

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Published on Nov 11, 2016

Over 6 days during the Lunar New Year holiday earlier this year, Taipei authorities tore down the elevated access road to the city''s Zhongxiao Bridge. It not only simplified traffic flows in the area, but also gave added visibility to the old North Gate, a Qing-dynasty historical landmark and paved the way for the renovation of other historical sites in the area. Planners are now thinking how to rejuvenate the area and make it into the new face of old Taipei. Our Sunday in-depth report. To minimize traffic disruption during the demolition of Zhongxiao Bridge, which used to handle over 1 million vehicles per day, Taipei City authorities decided to work over the Lunar New Year holiday. They were especially careful not to damage one of the city’s old gates, located right next to the bridge.Lin Ming-chaoChief Project EngineerIt was pretty difficult to dismantle the 750-meter-long bridge over just an 8 day window, and at a site surrounded by buildings with regular, high-speed and municipal rail lines underground. We also had to take into account these various historical sites and ensure that they weren’t damaged.Lin Jou-minTaipei Dept. of Urban Planning CommissionerThere’s lots of attractive historical buildings in the area around the North Gate, and we wanted to be able to see them.In 1884, Qing officials completed the first part of Taipei’s city wall, a 4.5-kilometer-long portion surrounding an area in what is now western Taipei, with five gates along its perimeter. But only 20 years later, the wall was nearly wiped off the map.In 1895, Taiwan fell under Japanese colonial control, and the island’s new occupiers sought to destroy the wall, as a both a demonstration of their victory over the Qing, and out of necessity to develop a new plan for the city. But the gates miraculously managed to avoid demolition with the rest of the wall. Lee Chian-langCCU Dept. of Architecture and Urban DesignAt the time the Japanese wanted to tear the whole thing down, the wall and its gates, but the head of a library, who was Japanese, said it would be best to preserve the gates while getting rid of the wall. Taipei’s West Gate had been torn down just before he issued his appeal, so that’s why Taipei today only has its old North, East, South, and Little South gates, and no West Gate.The Japanese colonial government decided to remake Taipei into its idea of a modern city, with wide avenues lined by buildings designed in a unique European-inspired style. The Post Office next to the North Gate is one important historical example of that approach. After the demolition of the Zhongxiao Bridge, the city embarked on plans to make the two structures into the anchors of a whole stretch of important historical buildings and sites in the area.Before the bridge was torn down, members of the engineering team involved in the project devised plans to make sure the North Gate wouldn’t be affected by demolition work at the bridge site. The engineering team also needed to come up with some innovative approaches when it came to the demolition itself.Lin Ming-chaoChief Project EngineerWe took advantage of the specific properties of the construction materials used in the bridge, as well as the shape of the site, to do our cutting in separate stages. The important thing about that was that the different materials used in the bridge demanded different demolition methods.To be able to finish within such a short window, engineers ordered over 100 different trucks, backhoes, and other pieces of heavy duty construction equipment to start work at the site on the first day of the project. More than 2,000 workers on alternating shifts round the clock helped to accelerate progress.Lin Ming-chaoChief Project EngineerThis part of the project that you’re looking at now was probably one of the most difficult parts. It was a project where we used some relatively specialized techniques because the bridge was only 60 centimeters away from the North Gate.By the fifth day of the demolition, the last remaining bridge support had been removed, and the 750-meter-long Zhongxiao Bridge officially became history. It also meant that after 40 years shrouded by the bridge, the old city gate could once again see daylight.Charles LinTaipei Deputy MayorThe bridge is gone, and a wide open space has appeared in its stead. But the more important point is that so much history has been compressed into this one place, including the three historical buildings you can see. You have the North Gate, the Railroad Museum, and the Taipei Post Office, which are all national historical monuments. At the same time you can also see all of the new, modern buildings surrounding them. Ko Wen-jeTaipei MayorIt’s letting Taiwan out while letting the world in. We used this opportunity to fix up these parts of old Taipei and show the world what Taiwan, and its history, look like. Next year Taipei is set to ...

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