There’s a certain type of spaces that I feel strangely drawn to. The kind of spaces at the edges of the urban landscape, half forgotten spaces hidden behind and below the infrastructure that keeps our cities running. I don’t really have a good name for them, liminal spaces isn’t quite correct, backstreets indicates something that is more populated, they’re definitely not slums and you can’t call it wasteland; forgotten spaces is wrong, people still remember them, and they’re not abandoned or deserted. Perhaps the best term would be neglected spaces, they’re a bit dirty, they don’t get taken care of but they are still used for some purpose or other, so neglected is what I will call them from now on. Perhaps it’s best to show what kind of space I mean.
Last week I went on a short business trip and on the way home I had an hour and a half to wait for my train in Taichung HSR station. VPN on the work computer wasn’t working and I didn’t feel like sitting in Starbucks scrolling Twitter for that long, so I decided to find some more interesting place to go. A quirk of the high speed rail system in Taiwan is that nearly all the stations are on the outskirts of the city so there’s not much around. However, after a bit of searching on Google Maps, I managed to find a small park called Wuri Tank Park within walking distance of the station. It seemed marginally more interesting than staying at the station, so I made my way there. It turned out to be exactly one of those neglected spaces that I find so fascinating.
This place is not really what you expect when you hear the word “park” – there aren’t any trees or grass or flowers. In fact it’s little more than a large parking lot underneath the highway, right at the point where the high speed rail track crosses over it, a forest of concrete pillars holding up the two bridges. Nearly the whole places lies in shadow. The only real indication that it’s supposed to be a park, and not actually a parking lot, is a little playground and next to that, a ubiquitous set of outdoor exercise machines. I think most people would dismiss this place as uninteresting, but to me it was exciting so I switched on the camera and started taking photos.
A couple more random shots
Something that quickly caught my eye is that practically every vertical surface in the park is absolutely covered in graffiti. Anywhere else in the world, this would have been expected for such a place, but in Taiwan it’s really rare. Not only is there a lot of it, but most of it is pretty high quality.
A selection of some of the best graffiti
It didn’t take me long to find the reason this is called a Tank Park. A short distance from the playground there are four armored vehicles on display, with information plaques next to them, seemingly forgotten here under the highway. You’d think some old tanks would make this places more interesting but they are just as neglected as the rest of the space.
While walking around I had noticed a small temple over to one side but hadn’t paid it much attention. When I was done photographing everything else I decided to check it out and I’m happy I did because it it fits right into the theme of this post. The temple looks like it’s been abandoned half way through some renovations. There’s a small shrine that seems to be temporarily located on the plaza in front of the unfinished main building. An incense burner and a sun bleached tent in front of the little shrine indicate that despite the rundown state, it’s likely still being used.
I didn’t really know why these neglected spaces were so interesting to me, but thinking about it as I’ve been writing this post, I think I’ve figured it out. One aspect of it is the way they are partly abandoned and partly in use; they don’t get properly taken care of like other public spaces, but they aren’t in such disrepair as truly abandoned places either. They’re sort of like public spaces but only used by the people on the fringes of society. Another aspect of it is the way they are kind of hidden in plain sight. The fact is, there are quite a lot of such spaces in big cities, and plenty people pass by on a daily basis but almost no one notices that they exist at all. Well, if you find this kind of place as fascinating as I do, especially if you’re in the area around Taichung HSR and have time to kill, then I recommend Wuri Tank Park. It’s bigger and there’s more to see than other neglected spaces I’ve been to.