By Johnny C. Chiang, Minister, Government Information Office
Since November 2010, Taipei has played host to the Taipei International Flora Expo, an event sanctioned by one of the world’s leading horticultural bodies, the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). More than 1,600 plant species and 3,300 cultivars are on show at the expo and some 30 million plants are expected to be used during the six-month-long event, including myriad indigenous and locally grown flora.
As visitors from Taiwan and the rest of the world are discovering, however, there are more than flowers on display. The beauty of Taiwanese culture is highlighted through thousands of scheduled cultural performances, and local achievements in horticulture, science and environmental protection can also be seen.
Each of the four exhibition areas and 14 individual exhibition pavilions, for example, is built on the green principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” Eight existing buildings were repurposed for the event, while new structures marry green building standards and innovative design. In the case of the EcoArk, or Pavilion of New Fashion, homegrown cutting-edge engineering has turned 1.5 million plastic bottles into the world’s first large-scale recycled-plastic building. The EcoArk also features the use of natural ventilation, daylight and LED lighting in order to cut electricity consumption, as well as solar and wind-power systems to generate its own electricity. National Geographic Channel has seen fit to feature the pioneering structure in a program due to premiere at the end of March.
On top of this, all 91.8 hectares of the expo’s grounds have been seamlessly integrated within one of the most densely populated cities in the history of the Flora Expo and the city government took the initiative to transform an additional 350 public and privately owned sites into green spaces throughout the city.
Subtle and Successful
The interiors of the pavilions are no less impressive. The wildly popular Pavilion of Dreams, for example, features more than two dozen of Taiwan’s pioneering technologies including paper-thin audio speakers, naked-eye 3-D displays and a 360-degree circular theater. The key to the pavilion’s success, however, is that the technology serves a breathtaking artistic vision.
Such displays are exciting, in part because they have so exceeded expectations. It is as if Taiwan’s designers have come of age “overnight,” although in fact, this “design revolution” has been quietly developing for years. All in all, local designers, planners, horticulturalists, engineers and researchers have contributed to perhaps the most advanced AIPH-sanctioned expo to date.
The public response to this effort speaks volumes. By early March, the event had seen some 5.4 million attendees and expo-fever is reaching well beyond the capital city. In fact, a number of pavilions are so popular that the Taipei City Government has decided to reopen several of them after the expo ends on April 25.
Cultural Development, Soft Power
This kind of success does not happen easily or by chance. It is the result of careful planning, skill and hard work by the event organizers, but it represents something even greater. It is a testament to the cultural development of Taiwanese society, long known for its high-tech sector and economic progress, but less so for its social and artistic attributes. Yet these are intrinsic to the success of high-profile events.
As such, the expo is a good example of Taiwan’s soft power in the international community because it also showcases the nation’s free and open society in which social progress, individual liberty and respect for the rule of law are valued. Artistic and cultural development flourish in an atmosphere of openness and tolerance, and amid economic prosperity, high levels of education and respect for human rights. All these are readily seen in today’s Republic of China, the world’s first Chinese democracy, and are ably shared with the world through such high-profile international events.
Little wonder that the city of Taipei has welcomed every opportunity to share its happiness in hosting the AIPH-expo, which is a first for Taiwan.
Taiwan in Full Bloom
All this innovation and success has not gone unnoticed. In mid-February, an Economist Intelligence Unit report ranked Taipei one of Asia’s greenest cities. AIPH president Doeke Faber also praised the expo as “truly unique” for its emphasis on environmental concerns, and noted the speed with which it took shape — Taipei City produced its world-class expo in four years when it usually takes host cities 10 years to do so.
The people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) should be proud of the nation’s accomplishment in carrying off yet another international-level event with expertise and aplomb. Along with a sea of spring flowers, it seems that artistry, technology and culture are blooming in Taiwan.
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