To those of us living in Taiwan, the streetscapes don’t usually attract too much of our attention. Simply because, to us, it is already a deeply embedded part of our everyday lives.
While discussion about the look of Taiwan’s cities and streets have been around for quite some time, the level of engagement was never as intense as in the past few days, when the cover photo of the Japanese magazine Brutus’s special edition on Taiwan triggered a fierce debate about Taiwan’s streetscapes.
To be honest, I can’t stop feeling a bit frustrated by those who try to criticize every aspect of Taiwan’s streetscape like it is the ugliest thing they’ve ever seen. For anyone who has spent enough time in Taiwan, it is not hard to figure out the repetitive pattern of Taiwan’s streetscape: dangling wires, protruding store signs and lines of scooters parked right by the sidewalk. Even though these traits do not paint a particularly crisp and neat image for my country, they do help establish something that is uniquely Taiwanese.
It is not a sudden deviation from some idealized “normal” state of organization, but a cultural asset that is developed through different stages in Taiwan’s cultural history. Needless to say, the cover photo does not sum up the entirety of Taiwan’s diverse streetscapes; it is only a general representation of something that is so uniquely Taiwanese that people can easily associate with their experiences on this diverse island.
So instead of concentrating all criticism based on just one generic picture from a travel magazine, we should take this chance to show off the diversity of Taiwan’s streetscapes and take pride in the recognition from the international community—especially during a tough time when Taiwan’s international space is being severely suppressed. The idea of creating new spaces through our soft power, something that’s uniquely Taiwanese, should be championed and prioritized.
To offer a good example of what I mean, I have prepared a selection of different aspects of Taiwan’s streetscapes to highlight the diversity that it possesses. We are all entitled to have our unique perspective, but that shouldn’t stop us from accepting parts of our culture as it is.