Interview: Mark Robbins – Port of Kinmen Competition Juror (2014)

with Stanley Collyer

mrobbins01

COMPETITIONS: I’m not certain how familiar you were with previous competitions in Taiwan; but this one had much in common with previous ones, in that it was also international in format.

 

MARK ROBBINS: They are quite high profile for remarkably large-scale projects.

 

COMPETITIONS: This is similar to the others, and, like those, had two sessions. Were you able to take part in both of them?

 

MR: Yes. It was on Kinmen Island, which I had never been to. And it has an interesting history. First of all, the U.S. government has had to figure out the deaccessioning of the bases that were military. This is a large island that had been used for military purposes, for although it is part of Taiwan geographically, it is closer to the Chinese mainland and was shelled pretty relentlessly. But because it had been closed off to development during this period, it had a very natural environment—it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any area in Taiwan.

    So the redevelopment of this becomes quite important, because you have an island, which is now strategically located, interestingly not for military reasons, but commercial reasons. This is expected to make it valuable because of the robust commerce between a Mainland China that still finds they can get a greater variety of consumer goods in Taiwan. Rather than flying goods in, it will be by boat, which is slower, but less expensive. So it will become a vast duty free area. And that was part of the motivation for this competition—to make a more accessible gateway for trade to and from Mainland China.

 

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Port of Kinmen winning entry

 

COMPETITIONS: Biodiversity caused by the lack of development during the Cold War brings to mind a similar situation in Germany on the demarcation line between East and West, where a large restricted strip on the eastern side of the border resulted in an untouched refuge for birds and various species.

 

MR: One seldom thinks of that. In Kinmen there are some of the best-preserved architectural artifacts, both from the Japanese colonial period and from earlier Chinese trading families. There are a series of buildings that have neoclassical detailing, but built around traditional courtyards in a Chinese format. These were families that wanted to display their wealth in the 1800s, through symbols displayed by western architecture. Because of the Cold War period and the lack of development, these were also preserved.

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