- Heavily influenced by both Chinese and Western traditions, Taipei is a multicultural city that prides itself on its openness.
- ‘Design thinking’ is at the centre of the city’s urban planning and strategies for citizen participation.
- A new Taipei Music Centre opened in October 2018 in the Nankang area; one of the two music centres commissioned by the Ministry of Culture. It is the first multi-function pop music and culture park in Taiwan.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 272 sq. km
- Total population: 2,683,257
Taipei is a city with a unique mixture of Western and Eastern influences, and a proud commitment to equality and openness. Seeing itself as a leader in Asia on social issues, a technological powerhouse, and a ‘smart city’, Taipei City also contains most of Taiwan’s leading cultural institutions and about a third of its creative industries.
In 1996 it established a body now known as the Taipei Gender Equality Committee. Its first Gay Pride parade was held in 2003, and in 2019 Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. This openness has also set the tone for arts and culture provision, allowing them to flourish.
The main cultural policymaker is the Taipei City Government Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). Established in 1999, the DCA was the first regional cultural affairs agency in Taiwan. It oversees six cultural institutions, among them Taipei Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Taipei City Arts Promotion Office – alongside significant new cultural buildings.
The City Government has encouraged citizen participation in shaping cultural assets. Since 2017, the public have been able to attend Cultural Assets Review Meetings, and since 2019 the sessions have been broadcast live online. Public art is also subsidised as a way of rooting art in everyday life – to date 668 public art works have been placed across the city. There are also seasons such as ‘Culture in the Alley’, which since 2007, has brought culture and performance out from institutions and into parks, streets and school playgrounds.
Over the past 25 years, the City has created festivals showcasing the best of culture from Taiwan and overseas, featuring film, arts, children’s activities, Taipei Arts Festival (1998) and Nuit Blanche Taipei, an all night culture event (from 2016). Together, these attract two million attendees every year. Although many were cancelled as in-person events in 2021 due to the pandemic, they went online, piloting new ways of delivering culture and meaningful personal connection through digital forms.
Taipei City’s commitment to being a smart city has led it to create new infrastructure through collaboration across sectors and professions – mixing industry with architecture, schools, technology and business, so that every new addition benefits the wider city ecosystem. This cross-sectoral thinking can be seen in a number of recently opened landmark cultural buildings. Taipei Public Library promotes digital reading and embraces innovations such as robotic book sorting. The expansion of Taipei Fine Arts Museum will include a new wing with underground floors, as part of an ‘earth-sheltered architecture’ concept, while the outdoor space is landscaped to create a natural park. Taipei Performing Arts Center, opened in 2022, is situated outside the city’s traditional cultural quarters, instead being placed next to the night markets, to bring in new audiences and develop business in the area.
This blended approach has also worked well for older assets. Taipei has the largest concentration of heritage in Taiwan, with 502 historic buildings or archaeological sites. Since 2013, the City has supported the Old Building Cultural Movement Project to preserve, revitalise and reuse old houses, through partnership with the private sector. By 2021, 42 old buildings had been successfully matched with operators who have given them new public uses.
As Taipei City looks to the future, they are committed to integrating digital transformation and culture, to ensure long-term sustainability post-pandemic. They are also acutely aware that, like every city, they face the effects of the climate emergency. Taipei has committed to reach net zero by 2050 and are working to combine environmental and ecological protection and cultural values to support this. The City also wants to continue to reach out across Asia, attracting people to Taipei City as a place to meet and network. Recognising the power of culture to bring people together across all these issues, whether its own citizens or international partners, it will continue to invest in making culture part of people’s lives across the city.