Tainan’s water network served as the centre for the city’s marine and fishing industry since the 17th century, however, in the 1980s, the city departed from its historic urban approach. This is when China-Town Mall was built on top of this old harbour. Nowadays this large commercial structure no longer serves its original purpose. The Tainan Spring projects shows what solutions can be offered for unused shopping malls.
The mall has been removed, while its underground parking has become a sunken public plaza with an urban pool and blooming plants, surrounded by a shadowed arcade. The pool was designed to be a perfect spot for all seasons as the water level will rise and fall in response to the rain and dry seasons. The place also hosts playgrounds, meeting spaces, and a stage for performances, but there’s still plenty of space to be filled within the concrete frame. Yet, a key part of the design studio’s strategy was to bring the greenery to the city, hence, inspired by the city’s history, both the original jungle and the water played an important role in this project.
“In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall. Children will soon be swimming in the ruins of the past — how fantastic is that?”Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV
Additionally, a part of the structure has been exposed with a glass floor to help people understand its history as an important part of Tainan’s past. Such an approach to preserving heritage means that the site wasn’t cleared and renewed in a ‘tabula rasa’ approach. Instead, the foundations of the former mall stick out.