Senses and Sensitivity

The Opening of Taichung’s Central Park by Catherine Mosbach/Philippe Rahm


View from the south with downtown Taichung in the distance image:©Mosbach/Rahm


The abandonment and closing of airports, including decommissioning those that were used for military purposes, has presented design communities with several opportunities to convert them entirely to civilian purposes. Notable among those which have been the result of competitions are Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California (Ken Smith Landscape Architects), The Estonian National Museum (Dan Dorell, Lina Ghotmeh  and Tsuyoshi Tane), and Toronto’s less successful Downsview Park competition, whereby the winning design by OMA, with trees as the primary feature, has been basically ignored. Instead, the area has become the site of numerous commercial and residential projects.


The Taichung Gateway Park Competition (now Taichung Central Park), won by Catherine Mosbach and Philippe Rahm with Ricky Liu and Associates, has been completed after a two-stage international competition and an intensive development phase. Also the site of a previous city airport, this was an ambitious project, covering a 168-acre parcel of land. The original competition participants were faced with a large, comprehensive program, not only incorporating a number of significant features, but doing so sustainably. When we reported on the results of that competition in 2012, author Dan Madryga summed up the challenge presented to the designers as follows:


Serving as the central backbone of the new community, Gateway Park will help set the standard for Gateway City’s subsequent development. The open, two-stage competition challenged architects, planners, and landscape architects to develop a meandering 168-acre parcel of land into a functionally complex recreational park running north to south through the new city, linking its various functional zones. The competition organizers sought a park that combined “tranquility, ecology, landscaping, disaster mitigation, carbon reduction and recreation.” Various recreational and cultural facilities had to be skillfully integrated into the park’s fabric, including a Cultural Center, Movie City, and the aforementioned Taiwan Tower. With a preliminary construction budget set at approximately US$85,000,000, the park is certainly a large-scale, high stakes endeavor with great potential.*


Middle leisure land Image with pavilion: ©Mosbach/Rahm


In the meantime the development phase saw the Mosbach/Rahm team settle on an interesting idea, placing structures along the breath of the site, representing “senses” according to the Rudolph Steiner method. For some, this may hark back to Bernard Tschumi’s “follies”, which were an essential element of his winning design for Parc de la Villette in Paris. In this case, it can be seen in its value not only for its educational/discovery features, but rather as a visual site-integration strategy with thematic connecting links.

The park is to be dedicated on December 6th in Taichung. With its multiple attractions, it promises to be a most important addition to the life and the well-being of the residents of the city and beyond.


*For the original competition Mosbach/Rahm entry:



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Prince Charles in the White House?

Expressway toll booth of the future ©Paul Spreiregen
(Explanation of lane designations below*)


Recent news about a new U.S. government policy concerning the design of public buildings under President Trump bears a striking resemblance to the controversy surrounding that very issue in the U.K. in the second half of the 20thcentury. It was then that Prince Charles appeared on the scene to challenge the use of modern design in architecture. Prince Charles’ career as architecture critic on the public stage began in 1984 with his criticism of Mies van der Rohe’s design for a new tower on Mansion House Square in London. Unfortunately for Britain’s architects, the voice of the crown carries some weight in British society, and the Mies tower was scrapped, replaced by a post-modern structure by James Stirling—which the Prince also did not like. According to the Prince, those modernist buildings resembled “Frankenstein monsters.” According to U.K.-based architects who had to deal with Charles’ pushback on modern design during that period, he was the “worst thing that happened to architecture here.”


Since then, Prince Charles’ influence in blocking the evolution of modern design in the U.K. has diminished considerably with the ascendance of modern architecture as a common staple—led by architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Amanda Levete, Zaha Hadid, John McAslan, Nicholas Grimshaw, Thomas Heatherwick, and others. Although not taken seriously by his European neighbors on the continent, Prince Charles’ ideas did find fertile ground in the U.S.—both in municipalities and even in academia, where classical architecture became a staple at such programs as Notre Dame and, to a lesser extent, Yale. At the latter, I learned from a former student there that Prince Charles even surfaced on a list of “architects” one could choose from as a topic in one seminar.


Instead of peer review, federal architecture under the auspices of the General Services Administration (GSA) now will apparently be at the mercy of a “beautification” panel, which will see to it that modern architecture recedes into the background, if at all. U.S. architects may see themselves placed in the uncomfortable position German, Italian and Russian architects experienced under their totalitarian regimes in the 1930s. By embracing the primacy of classical architecture as a blueprint for public buildings, the Trump regime certainly has helped the National Civic Art Society reach its ultimate goal, at least at the federal level—requiring American architects to turn to the replication of 17thand 18thcentury-style buildings as the preferred design model. Assuming that happens, Prince Charles would be a welcome visitor in the White House.


Addressing this issue, Paul Spreiregen FAIA, architect and professional adviser for the Vietnam Memorial competition states:

“Architectural history is not a copybook. Rather It is a textbook, to be read with a deep understanding of the many principles upon which architecture comes into being. The history of architecture is not served by aping it but by building on it, addressing the programmatic needs of each new building in its own time and place, its neighbored respected, thereby reflecting and honoring the culture it serves. 
To use the “styles” of the past as a cloak for the new is a lie, a subterfuge for respectability and supposed prestige. That is the work of authoritarian governments. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were its more recent and notorious promoters. They produced not architecture but laughable if not tragic cartoons of architecture.

All the great works of architecture of the past were, in their own times and places, masterpieces of ancient principles seen anew. That practice has been the glory of the best of American architecture.”**

*Letters to the Editor, The Washington Post, 17 February 2020


*Lane designations

I – Express lane for National Civic Art Society members and family
II – One-horse Roman War chariots (a non carbon emitting benefit)
III – Two-horse Roman war chariots (other emissions of a non carbon nature to be monitored)
IV – Fiats
V – Ferraris
VI – Alpha Romeos
VII-IX – Other automobiles of the great unwashed
VVV…. etc (in colonnade)

Vestal virgins (scantily clad in aisles I-VI) poised in colonnade who wave red or green flags to signal receipt of toll fee
R It – Italian fast food restaurant. (order by mobile phone)
R Gr – Greek fast food restaurant.