Travelers and photographers everywhere are constantly looking for this unique experience. That unique shot of that unique place that has earned the respect and admiration of friends and magazine editors. With the ever-expanding tourism industry, these places are getting harder and harder to find every day, especially if you’re not a local friend. When traveling to unknown destinations, it’s easy to drive to typical tourist destinations and charge generously for it. Tracing these untouched gems takes research and effort. Most of the time, these places remain very beautiful above all because of these two requirements; and make it much more rewarding for those who actually get there.
An undiscovered gem in East Asia in its own right, Taiwan is full of these unexplored areas, making it the perfect destination for those seeking a unique experience. This weekend I rediscovered one of these destinations that I have labeled as ‘Formosa’s Futuro Village‘. Below is his colorful story, I hope you like it.
The 1970s were an interesting time for the whole world. New fashion trends, musical styles and lifestyle perspectives were emerging like never before. Now people not only had ideals, they also had money to buy them. Trends were emerging in the architectural design industry as well, trying to quench the thirst of those looking for a unique home that would fit their new unique view of life. In an age when it was believed that robots and machines would eventually cure all the challenges of the humanities, a Finnish architect, Matti Suuronen, has designed a new home he calls ‘Futuro’.
This new home was designed to eventually become the worldwide standard for all homes, to enable worldwide travel and living for everyone. Constructed from reinforced fiberglass, this 16-piece “pod” or “flying saucer” shaped house was designed for easy transport and sustainable in any environment. The basic idea was, you buy a house while living on the beach in Hawaii, and when you want to change your pace and move to the Swiss Alps to live in a ski village, you want to blow your house piecemeal. was rebuilt. All that was needed was four concrete pillars as a base, and the house could be placed on top of them, allowing it to be placed almost anywhere.
Besides the unique portable design of the house, the interior was also designed with the utmost comfort in mind. The living room had a set of reclining chairs that people could sit on comfortably and even pull out to make sleepers for guests. These chairs were along the outer wall facing the center of the house where the kitchen and bar area is located. This would create a great chatting dining and living room area in one compact space. At the back of the house, the master bedroom and bathroom were tucked away in privacy and privacy. An interesting environmental appeal to this home was that, using its electric heating system, it could go from -20 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in just 30 minutes. Incredibly sustainable.
Unfortunately, fewer than 100 homes were built worldwide, often attributed to the Exxon Mobil Crisis and the dramatic price increase of oil. The domino effect of the increase made plastics for these homes more expensive to produce, and naturally people began to lose interest. Matti Suuronen’s dream of a futuristic world with flying saucer houses under which helicopters fly overhead died hand in hand with his design in the 1980s.
But before Futuro’s fate got in the way, a savvy Taiwanese businessman shared Matti Suuronen’s dream and took action with him.
Mr. Su Ming was a Taiwanese businessman with a vibrant background in the military during his early years. One of his first ventures was a now popular brand of Sarsaparilla soda sold in Taiwan. It wasn’t very popular with local taste buds in the days it started and got off to a slow start. However, with America establishing military bases in Taiwan as an outpost for greater East Asia, western tastes for both culture and food began to develop in the country. However, Mr. Su Mings’ soda sales exploded, and he became a wealthy newcomer by establishing a new factory.
With his new money, Mr. Su Ming was worried about investing and decided to target an upmarket market where Taiwanese citizens shop for vacation homes. He decided that water sports and beach life were the appeal he needed to create a beachside community for high-class Taiwanese. With that in mind, he chose a beautiful beachfront location on Taiwan’s North East coast, made a real estate investment and set out to build a futuristic residential community filled with square-shaped beachfront villas alongside Futuro designer homes. Taiwan’s market was super-rich, as these beachfront villas originally sold for the equivalent of US$94,000 today.
I was informed by the local property manager, who was eventually told that investors had lost interest and the project had run out of money. He explained that most investors can afford to go abroad to other exotic destinations and private villas, leaving little desire for a simple vacation at home on a lawn beach property.
Also, in an interview with a local dance instructor who learned from the spa and hotel, the weather conditions in the area are extreme throughout the year; Summers are unbearably hot, and winters bring unbearably strong winds and cold ashore. He explained that it is a less than ideal placement for holiday homes and the neighborhood has been vacant for 20-30+ years.
The conclusion of our day, the ruins of what was once a futuristic beachside villa neighborhood, desolate and unsettling, gives us a small window into what was once a successful businessman’s dream.
Trying to catch the magic hour of the morning for the shoot, I set off at around 05:00 to catch the first bus to the now abandoned beach resort. This was only possible because Taipei’s transportation system is flexible and makes life easier for those who choose to avoid the danger of riding scooters in heavy traffic. As I meander through the mountains and watch the landscape transform from high-rise apartments to green forested slopes and temples, I can’t help but appreciate how easy it is to escape the hustle and bustle of Taiwan. In just about an hour I was already at the shoreline. With the DSLR and tripod in hand, I got out of the car and saw the first Futuro.
The morning was cloudy, as it usually is on the Taiwan coast, which brought a whole new feeling to the scenario. With the rolling gray clouds, the diffused sunlight, and the oncoming Futuro house, I literally felt like I was about to be missed. The spooky weather and abandoned structures worked really well together, giving me a goosebumps feeling that I had to get in, shoot, and get out.
The color contrasts and random objects of the ruins offered a magnificent window into the past as the planned community wandered through the lined streets. All of the Futuro-style houses were either a dull orange or a pale pale yellow, indicating their age and tough past lives. The rust stains running down the sides of each house resembled bleeding scars caused by years of the harsh environment that had piled on them. The steel pillars of the windshades on the front porches of the square houses had been crushed by the gusts of wind, like pipe cleaners bent by a child.
Overgrown, most of the houses had clearly been abandoned for a long time. It is notable, however, that there are still some with rusted padlocks on their doors, televisions inside, and some that still appear to be inhabited. This gave me the feeling that I was in some kind of abandoned town horror movie, and he was constantly checking the shadows to make sure nothing was creeping behind me to put an ax on.
I attempted to break into a few houses that were not surrounded by wooden posts and barbed wire locks to get a better view. I found Japanese-inspired tatami rooms in one bathroom, twin beds with sheets on them, and even toothbrushes alongside a bottle of head and shoulder shampoo.
Kitchens with stoves, refrigerators, and air conditioning were still hanging on the wall, all screaming the modernity that the entire project was aiming for at the time. What I found quite appealing was the fact that there were tables and tables in front of the square villas on the beach and below most of the Futuro-designed homes, along with barbecue pits and gardens. It looked like the place I thought of as a campground where families could get together and cook outside and enjoy nature and being with their loved ones. An interesting contrast of emotion and mood for a place like this.
Overall, the energy was a weird mix of extreme eerieness met with a sense that if it had been successful it would have been a really nice community to live in. The interior design of the villas, combined with the quirkiness of the community, could have been a very nice place for a camping holiday getaway just a short drive from the capital.
Mr. Beach villas established by Su Ming offers a unique and interesting look at Taiwan’s past and world trends in general. This is an opportunity not to be missed for any traveler or photographer who comes to Taiwan looking for a unique landscape. Fortunately, unlike its unlucky West Coast sibling Pod Houses in SanZhi, it has been able to avoid the bulldozer so far, but it’s impossible to know when its days will finally be numbered.
Just a short while from Taipei, it’s also a nice reminder of what an incredible travel destination Taiwan is. One of the undiscovered jewels of the East, Taiwan’s landscape and culture remains rich and unique, but the country’s modernity makes everything very accessible. Taiwan’s undiscovered Futuro Village is an amazing travel experience and I highly recommend it as a day trip for anyone interested in a place that is unusual, unique and has a rich story, all very photogenic. package.