Sunday, 12 October 2014

Taipei 101

Taipei 101, Taiwan ©Solange Hando

 Taipei 101 is celebrating its tenth birthday. Open on New Year's eve 2004, it was at that time the world's highest building, a feat of engineering which combined modern technology and Eastern philosophy.

Today, at 508 metres, it's only in fifth place but it remains a tower of superlatives and the most eco-friendly of them all. Figures still defy the imagination: 550 000 tons, 380 piles sunk 80 metres into the ground plus 30 into the bedrock, 32 000 sprinklers, 24 000 glass panels and so it goes on.

Taipei Tower ©Solange Hando

To top it all, the tower boasts the world's fastest lift to whiz you up and down to your chosen floor. There are 101 altogether, a binary number, symbol of the digital age, divided into eight sections, an auspicious number, and designed like tapering treasure chests to catch every droplet of good fortune coming down from the heavens.

Luxury Shopping in Taipei 101 ©Solange Hando

So what's inside?
The lower floors, 1 to 15, are for shopping, all gleaming designer boutiques and great swathes of orchids leading to a vast bustling food court.

The upper floors are for business and finance but floors 88 to 91 are open for the public, brave enough to cope with the entrance queues and dizzying heights.

 The Tuned Mass Damper ©Solange Hando

But before heading for the views, everyone wants to see the gold-painted damper, a massive pendulum, hanging between floors 92 and 87 and designed to swing and keep the tower straight in case of earthquakes and gale force winds.

Taipei stands on a tectonic fault where quakes and typhoons are part of life but for the past 10 years, the damper has done its work.

 One View from the Top ©Solange Hando

Now, Taipei is at your feet, skyscrapers, tiny pagodas, roads, parks and mountains beyond.
In poor weather, you may have to be content with the 'cloud walk'  when on a computerised floor, clouds disperse now and then to allow glimpses of the cityscape.

Then, you can enjoy the traditional milk tea and pineapple cake, send a postcard home, suitably franked, and look around the dazzling Coral Art Gallery and the adjoining boutique offering the most exclusive items.

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