Central Building as a National Historic Site
(1) The building sits on the site of the former Huashan Elementary School, which during the Japanese colonial era was the largest primary school in Taipei in terms of land area.
(2) The Japanese administration intended the Taipei Municipal Office to be the geographical heart of its colonialist rule. This is the site from where the city expanded outward. This type of spatial planning is markedly different from how the previous Qing dynasty laid out the city’s streets.
(3) After World War II, the building successively housed the highest administrative organs in the land: the Office of the Taiwan Provincial Administration, the Taiwan Provincial Government and now the Executive Yuan.
2. National Historic Site Designation
On July 30, 1998, the Ministry of the Interior designated the Central Building of the Executive Yuan a national historic site for the following reasons:
(1) During Japanese rule, the building was the site of the Taipei Municipal Office. After Taiwan was restored to ROC rule, the building served as the premises for the Office of the Taiwan Provincial Administration, the Taiwan Provincial Government and the Executive Yuan.
(2) The structure is an important example of modernist architecture from the late Japanese colonial era.
3. Architectural Design
With each floor covering over 3,300 square meters, the Central Building of Executive Yuan was one of few large government buildings constructed during the late Japanese colonial era. In those days, the structure was at the forefront of modernist architecture, built in the shape of a squared-off figure “8” with offices along the four sides and meeting venues at the center. The section above the main entrance rises to four stories while the remaining areas are three stories tall.
Although the symmetrical façade is classical in design, the style is quite novel. At the main entrance stand a pair of square columns topped with unadorned capitals. The inside of the building is lined with corridors and the outside with protruding balconies. All balcony corners are curved for a horizontal streamline style, which is common among the modernist architecture of the 1930s. Except for the white columns and original portico, the exterior wall is covered in brown tiles, dubbed “defense color tiles” as they provided camouflage against air raids.
Rather than a triangular pediment, a round dome or a tall steeple, the structure is topped with a flat roof. Other horizontal lines are emphasized on the exterior as well as in the interior. This shows a strong influence from the modernist movement that was popular during the peak of Japanese expansion when the Central Building was constructed (1937).
Ten Architectural Features of the Central Building
1. The architectural design as a whole reflects a 1930s world trend that was influenced by functionalism, as espoused by the Bauhaus School in Germany. The interior space is clearly divided according to function while the exterior design is a combination of simple squares and horizontal lines.
2. The symmetric structure forms a squared-off figure “8” shape that surrounds two courtyards. The balanced arrangement of the hallways and stairways on each floor facilitates easy entry and exit by personnel.
3. Balconies were constructed on the east, south and west sides as shields from sun and rain. Though the building has since been equipped with indoor air conditioning, the balconies still help conserve energy in Taiwan’s hot climate.
4. The balconies and parapet wall surfaces are rounded at the corners. The flowing lines and simple design of the smooth exterior reveal the streamline style favored by expressionism. The strong contrast generated by the horizontal balconies and railings and the vertical giant columns at the central entrance is one of the features of 1930s modernist architecture.
5. The simple round columns were built without caps, reflecting the strength of steel-reinforced concrete. The two square columns above the main entrance were decked with simple horizontal ridges for a more prominent texture that accentuates the entrance’s image. These square columns and horizontal lines reveal the influence of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
6. The exterior walls were covered with brown ceramic tiles, known at the time as “defense color tiles” because they provided camouflage against air raids. The wall has since been repainted in a lighter color that retains a stately, coordinated appearance overall.
7. The rooftop being flat rather than pedimented represents a shift in style from eclecticism to modernism, a style that is more progressive than that of Taipei Zhongshan Hall. The wall above the central entrance is covered in a spiraling diamond design. Atop each of the north and south entrances are a pair of ridged columns that reveal the influence of art deco.
8. A grand conference room is located on the second floor at the heart of the complex. Improved construction techniques at the time enable the room’s steel trusses to stretch 24 meters across. The building was designed by Ide Kaoru of the department of construction at the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan, an architect who also designed the Taipei City Public Auditorium (now Taipei Zhongshan Hall).
9. The interior walls are covered with terrazzo polished in different colors, forming decorative horizontal bands. These were finished by the precast method and executed with fine craftsmanship. The terrazzo material was made from Hanshui and Qili stone produced in Yilan.
10. The stairway railings are simple and unadorned, a style popular in the late 1930s. Unlike in conventional buildings, the stairways are located not at the corners but at the midpoints of the four sides. They were built with steel-reinforced concrete for greater seismic resistance.