A 3,000-foot stretch of riverfront in Taipei, Taiwan, with existing conditions such as a parking garage, a bridge approach, and a nearly 30-foot floodwall.

A park that incorporates landscaping, pedestrian circulation, highway infrastructure, and public spaces and buildings such as an amphitheater, a sculpture park, and retail.

Cities around the globe suffer from languishing waterfronts. Asked to transform an infrastructure-laden stretch of Taipei's Danshui River into a civic amenity, Stan Allen Architect proposed a comprehensive redevelopment of the site, starting with its topography. The architects reshaped the coastline to negate sightline and site-access problems posed by existing floodwalls and to better accommodate the planned program, which includes a sequence of green spaces, a network of pathways and boardwalks that engages the adjacent urban area, and revenue-generating restaurants and retail. The project also incorporates cultural venues such as an environmental learning center, a sculpture park, and an observation tower. Retail and other uses mix in surprising ways, in part to create urban density.

"It takes a condition that a lot of cities face—how to access the waterfront—not with a totalizing strategy, but with a variety of different conditions," Georgeen Theodore said. "You can actually create both a barrier to flooding and an entrance for the public. The project is very strong in its use of infrastructure to increase public space."

"There's a research component that supports the argument for this intervention," Eric Höweler added. "I think that is a trend nowadays. We don't just start designing, we start by researching." That research included studying site conditions and looking at landforming references such as Australian mangrove trails and Icelandic avalanche barriers in order to determine how to replace the existing floodwall with a serpentine levee that greatly opened the site.

Project Credits
Project: Taipei Waterfront, Taipei, Taiwan
Client: Taipei City Government
Architect: Stan Allen Architect, Brooklyn, N.Y.—Stan Allen (principal in charge); Carlos Arnaiz (project designer); Marc McQuade, Rosalyne Shieh, Leo Henke, Giancarlo Valle (project team)