The days of Kaohsiung known as a cultural desert are almost over, at least when it comes to modern culture… Contemporary venues for culture and the arts are in constant development, local creative spaces are popping up around town, the Pier-2 Artist In Residence program regularly welcomes foreign artists, and it feels like there’s always some festivals or events going on, however modest they may be.
Last week, I finally got my act together and kicked myself out of the house to venture into an unknown spot of the city, the Wei Wu Ying Metropolitan Park 衛武營都會公園. Aside from checking out the park, I was also curious about the Eslite pop-up bookstore which had been making repeat appearances on my fb timeline.
Bicycle riding to the park was a rather extenuating trip, mainly because it required following Sanduo road 三多路, an artery of the city always congested with traffic, and with an AQI shooting through the roof. Once at the park, I was hoping for some fresh air, maybe even reading under the shade of some trees, but with the dense haze of pollution, it was clearly not a day to linger outside.
I entered the park through the northwestern corner, and started biking randomly in search of the Eslite wooden hut. I passed through some beautiful banyan trees, reached one end of the park, tried to situate myself on a worn-down map, biked some more through the almost deserted park, and finally found my way to a patch of grass with cute little wooden huts, and some artsy creations in the middle of it, in the southeastern corner.
Looking for a place to rest my bike, I passed behind the Eslite hut, where a power generator was furiously cogitating, and contributing its fair share of CO², but at least, some air-conditioning was guaranteed inside the Eslite pop-up. Of course, how could I have forgotten:
On this afternoon, not much was going on, but looking at the schedule of activities and performances, I could imagine how livelier it’d get on the week-ends. I walked around while munching on some grub, and finally walked inside Eslite to check off the objective of my outing. Despite the unusual setup, they were able to reproduce the “Eslite feel”, seriously, what’s Eslite’s secret?
I tried to find some historical information about Wei Wu Ying, when it still served a purpose for the military, but online sources are rather scarce. I may need to turn on the 中文 search, actually read the Wikipedia page in Chinese, or rummage through the local archives section at the public library to learn more about it. For now, the official website will do, and this project from a junior high school may also be worth perusing. Apparently, there’s also a geocache location on the premises. This is as exciting of information in English as I could find.
On the near horizon, I could see the future state-of-the-art Wei Wu Ying Center for the Arts 衛武營國家藝術文化中心, still in construction, although it was originally slated for completion at the end of 2015, or was it 2013? The architecture of the building was inspired by the banyan trees of the park, and will feature different performance halls, along with an open air theater reminiscent of a Roman theatre.
The following video introduces the project, the inspiration behind it, and some interesting technical details about its implementation. For extras, you can also enjoy this “propaganda” video, featuring brief footages of Wei Wu Ying back in the days.
The modern building is a huge contrast with the old and “traditional Taiwan” feel of this area of town, so it’ll be interesting to see its impact on the local community. If I’m to get a hint from this post, the re-purpose of this military settlement had some detractors from the start, not quite enthused with how the old military history of the place has been preserved.
For more Wei Wu Ying wanderlust, I will defer to Instagram’s #衛武營. Hopefully, the AQI will calm down at some point, so I can pursue my 衛武營狂想 (Wei Wu Ying fantasy), and learn/write further about this park, originally dubbed as the green lung of Kaohsiung. ⭐