When it was built in 1983, the hulking Chinatown mall in downtown Tainan, Taiwan, was briefly popular. Now it’s almost completely abandoned, filled with shuttered stores, empty karaoke bars, and broken skylights. And next year, the city plans to tear it down and turn the ruins into a park.
“For the last 10 or 15 years, the city has seen the mall as a failure,” says Hui-Hsin Liao, an architect from MVRDV, the architecture firm that won a competition to redesign the area. “There were even rumors of ghost stories around the city.”
As the mall failed, so did most of the smaller businesses nearby. The new park is designed to bring people back and reconnect the neighborhood to the nearby waterfront. “By tearing this down, the canal is directly linked to the main street,” says Liao. The surrounding streets will reroute traffic and redesign sidewalks for pedestrians.
Remnants of the old structure–like elevators, ventilation shafts, and columns–will stay in place as a sort of monument to the dead mall. “We decided to keep columns leftover from the shopping mall to kind of keep the memory,” she says. “The building has been there, history happened there, so we think that even if we want to tear down the building that we should keep the memory in a certain format.”
Part of the old underground parking garage will turn into a lagoon, something that used to be common in Tainan before the city developed and reclaimed land. “In the city itself, you don’t see any nature which connects to the surrounding landscape,” says Liao. “Our concept is to bring nature into the city.”