Songshan Cultural & Creative Park is the most recent and also the biggest of Taipei’s creative locations. Like the Red House and Huashan 1914, the Songshan complex used to be an old industrial site. Built in 1937 as a tobacco factory, Songshan extends over some 6.6 hectares of space. The factory buildings alone include five warehouses, various office buildings and manufacturing halls, an inspection room and a boiler room.
In 2001 the factory complex was designated an important historic location and Taipei’s city government began to develop the site as a creative and cultural design centre. And in 2012, Songshan Cultural & Creative Park was opened with the mission to kindle creativity and innovation, with a particular focus on cross-industry creative projects.
A whole range of design associations and companies have their offices here, including the Taiwan Design Center and the Design Library. Songshan also hosts the Taiwan Design Museum, the Red Dot Design Museum, a large number of office and exhibition spaces and an auditorium. There is a gorgeous cafeteria space which was just recently opened and several stores which sell art and design.
All of these facilities are located in the old factory buildings but the Songshan complex also includes a fairly new shopping mall which was designed by famous Japanese architect Toyo Ito. Amongst the stores and cafés in this mall is a large outlet of Taiwanese bookstore chain Eslite (more on Eslite in another post!) which also has a very nice food court in the basement. And this food court features a branch of famous Taiwanese bakery Wu Pao Chun.
Now, I didn’t know anything about this bakery and only went in there because an acquaintance of mine wanted to buy some bread. I left with around 2 kilos of assorted baked goodies, including a spectacular Longan & Organic Rose Bread, a French Chocolate Twist with Spices & Orange and a loaf of Lychee & Red Wine Bread. Wu Pao Chun is a quite young Taiwanese baker who fuses European baking traditions with Asian ingredients – and the results are delicious. I strongly recommend a visit to Wu Pao Chun if you are in the Songshan Cultural Park area.
Like most of the other Eslite outlets I have visited over the past week, Songshan’s Eslite has a lot of retail space which is dedicated to Taiwanese arts and crafts and design goods in general. And not only that, there are also areas where you can watch a glass designer or even paint your own pottery. The focus is very much on getting visitors involved into the creative process and in fact, this area of the Eslite space is called “Living Project”.
In addition to all this wonderful food and retail the Songshan park also features an Eco Pond, a Palm Tree Avenue and various green spaces that are perfect for strolling around. All of this is open to the public – and actually, this is an aspect Songshan shares with the Red House and Huashan 1914: all three locations are very low-threshold and anyone can visit them, including the non-creative community, i.e. normal people.
This is very different from the art locations I have visited in Berlin. Don’t get me wrong, Berlin has some great creative arts houses but most are a bit, let’s say “elitist”; and are not really accessible unless you are a creative/artist/design person yourself. Taipei’s arts locations come across as friendly community areas – an egalitarian and democratic approach which I really like.
At the moment there is a bit of construction going on all around the park so there are only two entrances (more information on the Songshan website) but the actual location is very central and quite close to Taipei City Hall in the Xinyi area of the city. The closest MRT stations are Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (Exit 5) and Taipei City Hall (Exits 1 or 2) on the Blue Line.