“SEE those buildings with black roof? That’s the old tobacco factory. It’s now a cultural center,” said my host, while pointing at it from the 31st floor Yen restaurant of W Taipei. It was a short walk away from the hotel in the cosmopolitan district of Xin Yi.
I made it the second stop of my day two itinerary in Taipei, after National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which was in the same vicinity and a block away. Both the historic structures are neighbors of the soon-to-open modern mammoth, the Taipei Dome. Together it makes up the Taipei Cultural and Sporting Complex that highlights the city’s historic sites, structures and architecture.
Songshan is a multifunctional park designed as a creative stage with international focus. Its prime intention is to act as “the creative hub of Taipei,” which will put the country on the cultural and creative industry map.
Through its four key strategies — Creative Lab, Creative Co-Op, Creative School and Creative Showcase — the aim to inspire and nurture creative talents; spark innovation and set trends; and extend cultural and art education and encourage public involvement in the different disciplines of art can be achieved.
But before it became the public platform of Taipei’s cultural and creative industry, it was a Japanese government-run tobacco factory in 1937, the Taiwan Sotokufu Tobacco Monopoly Bureau which was the first modernized tobacco factory in Taiwan designed in the architectural style of Japanese Early Modernism.
The industrial plant’s design was pioneering as well. Large open space, courtyards that included a Baroque garden in the factory’s quadrangle, and a well-running production line were penciled into the blueprint as consideration to the needs of the employees. It was more of an “industrial village”.
In 1945, after Japan ceded Taiwan, the factory was renamed to Taiwanese Provincial Tobacco and Alcohol Monopoly Bureau Songshan Plant, then to Songshan Tobacco Plant of the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Bureau in 1947.
Half a century later, in 1998, over urban planning, new tobacco and liquor regulations and the decline in tobacco demand, the factory ceased operations.
The tobacco plant was resurrected into Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in 2001 and was appointed as the city’s 99th historic site by the Taipei City Government.
However, it was not until November 2011 that the former factory’s space was used more efficiently and opened to the public. As a creative park, it provided the venues for diverse cultural and creative exhibitions and performances.
Today, the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is a platform for showcasing creativity and innovation. It actively involves itself in the organization of artistic, cultural and creativity activities.
Expect an art exhibition or symposium, a fashion show or award ceremony and even a film shooting when you visit. These are part of the cross-disciplinary events that the park is pushing for.
The part gathers a very artsy crowd not just tourists, the vibe of the place attracts them. It’s not the architecture of the well-preserved structures of the old tobacco plant that draws them in, it is what’s currently housed within its walls—art in all its forms in the museum, stores and exhibitions—and the scene that is constantly changing.
To get there: Take MRT Blue Line to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Memorial Hall Station, take Exit 5.
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