All the Flowers You Can Dream Of
A Walk through the Grounds of the Taipei Int'l Flora Expo
By Christine Harris
Covering an area of more than 90 hectares and presenting an estimated 25 million plants, the Taipei Int'l Flora Expo is going to be a massive event with countless attractions. There is much ground to be covered, but with the four park areas serving as venues being well connected by easy-to-follow footpaths, shuttle buses, and even a ferry service on the Keelung River, seeing it all even within a single day is not out of the realm of possibility.
After many months of worksite busyness, the final touches have been put on the Flora Expo facilities and the big show is ready to go, set to run November 6, 2010 ~ April 25, 2011. Major buildings have strikingly innovative and futuristic exteriors, making one curious about the exhibitions that will be presented inside. The four major park areas that will serve as venues for the expo, which are interconnected, are all located north of Minzu East/West Road and south of the Keelung River. Each has been the recipient of a major facelift.
So, once the exposition opens, where to start? Many visitors will opt to enter the Yuanshan Park Area first, because Yuanshan Station on the Danshui Line (Red Line) of the city's MRT (mass rapid transit) system is right next to its Gate 1. From the station's elevated platform you can get a first glimpse of what awaits you in the adjacent park, and after leaving the station it's just a short walk to the entrance. Another way to get to the expo by MRT is to take the Wenhu Line (Brown Line) to Songshan Airport Station and there transfer to the free Flora Expo shuttle bus to the Xinsheng Park Area. For other transport options check the Flora Expo website: www.2010taipeiexpo.tw.
The most prominent building you'll see when entering the Yuanshan Park Area is the old Zhongshan Soccer Stadium to the right, which has been transformed into the Expo Dome. Inside is a superb floral-display area where visitors can appreciate the spirit of floriculture while learning about the latest international developments in this art. The Expo Dome will also host the international Indoor Floral Design Competition, a veritable Olympiad for florists, with masters in this art competing on a large scale, creating spectacular works. To the north of the stadium there is a large, open area with colorful flower fields, resembling those you can find in Taiwan's numerous flower-cultivation areas.
Just east of the stadium is one of the most remarkable of the Flora Expo structures, the Pavilion of New Fashion, also named the EcoARK. Shaped like a giant wooden ark, the pavilion is not only eye-catching but, featuring a structural skeleton made of Taiwan-grown bamboo, walls built with recycled plastic bottles, and powered in part by solar and wind energy, it is also a decidedly "green" building. Along the curving Water Purification Corridor you can delve into the building's eco-secrets as you learn about natural water purification, and the Ark Lab will feature video displays on the building's planning, groundwork, construction, and operation.
The EcoARK is not only eye-catching, but is also a decidedly "green" building
After checking out the Pavilion of Culture and the Celebrity's House, the former explaining the evolution of flowers and the latter centered on bonsai and flower arrangement along with celebrities and their favorite flowers, it's time to move on to the Fine Arts Park Area by crossing the pedestrian bridge over Zhongshan North Road.
The Expo Hall, to the right when entering the park, is the venue for the opening ceremony and for the duration of the expo it will host major international arts and cultural performances. The chrysalis-shaped facility is patterned on flower, butterfly, and green-living themes; and its half-open architecture allowing natural ventilation, plus its highly translucent ceiling allowing predominantly natural-light illumination, are the epitome of eco-friendly building concepts.
After wandering through the Global Garden Area, featuring garden designs from around the world, you'll reach the Pavilion of Aroma of Flowers. Adopting the imagery of an interlocking six-petal flower, the pavilion uses the power of curved surfaces to form an umbrella-shaped external structure that has a dynamic futuristic appearance. This is site of the Flora Expo's biggest souvenir shop, an expansive space that will have over 1,000 different souvenirs for sale.
??????? To reach the Xinsheng Park Area, you need to pass through a long, luxuriant tunnel decorated with flowers. Highlights of this area are three new pavilions, all built following green concepts with solar-paneled roofs, plant-draped walls, and paths built from recycled plastic bottles.
Cutting-edge interactive technologies are featured at the Pavilion of Dreams, including high-curvature smart liquid-crystal displays, ultra-large-area surround-sound speakers giving out insect sounds and birdcalls recorded from nature, and bio-signal measurement systems offering visitors a fresh experience of nature with the help of high technology. This tour de force of Taiwan's technological prowess takes participants on a journey of sensory wonders. Furthermore, the pavilion's Theater of Dreams has showings of an animated feature with a storyline that takes the viewer on a quest for the source of dreams.
This tour de force of Taiwan's technological prowess takes participants on a journey of sensory wonders
The Pavilion of Future is Taiwan's first smart energy-saving greenhouse, housing 30,000 individual plants from nearly 1,600 species found around Taiwan and with habitats ranging from frigid through tropical. Well worth visiting is the Orchid and Fern Exhibit Area, which pairs the beauty and uniqueness of Taiwan's orchids with ferns.
The Pavilion of Angel Life displays internationally created visual arts, dynamic aerial images, Earth art, and oceanic imagery to showcase the diverse splendor of Taiwan. There is also a Body-Mind-Spirit Spa and the Atrium Garden/Aquatic Plants Area, forming a place of refuge where busy people can take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Apart from its main pavilions, the Xinsheng Park Area also features a variety of gardens as well as attractive architecture such as the Palace of Floral Teas, where you can learn about life in imperial-era courtyard-style residences and about the preparation of floral teas.
The last and most expansive park area is the Dajia Riverside Park Area on the south bank of the Keelung River. Many of the expo's performances and cultural events are to take place here, in particular at the Eco-Theater, a horseshoe-shaped amphitheater built with great horticultural and artistic flair, and the Expo Arena, where each day two shows with music, dance, drama, magic, and more are to be shown. On Carnival Boulevard visitors will be entertained daily with colorful parades led by a ladybug float followed by pixies, stilt walkers, the expo's five Flower Fairy mascots, and another mascot called Yabi the Seed Baby. All these happy characters will take time to interact with the crowd – especially, of course, with the kids.
Finally, after a fun-filled day taking in flowers and plants of all shapes and sizes, marveling at truly amazing state-of-the art green architecture, learning all about the rich flora of Taiwan, and enjoying vivid performance and entertainment programs, how about taking a ferry cruise on the Keelung River from the wharf at Dajia Riverside Park? Take in the mesmerizing lights of the city in the evening and let the sights and sounds you've experienced during your visit to the Taipei Int'l Flora Expo all sink in. From the Dajia Riverside Park Area you can then take a shuttle bus back to the Yuanshan Park Area and MRT Yuanshan Station.
For more information, call (02) 5551-1111 or visit: www.travelintaipei.com.tw