Shin Kong Life TowerEdit profile
Shin Kong Life Tower (Chinese: 新光人壽保險摩天大樓) is one of the tallest buildings in Taiwan at 51 stories 244.76 metres (803.0 ft). The rose-coloured skyscraper topped by a pyramid stands in Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Its first twelve floors and two underground floors house a Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store; the remaining floors provide office space and serve as headquarters for the Shin Kong Life Insurance Company. The tower stands across Zhongxiao Road from Taipei Main Station near the Asiaworld Department Store.
The Shin Kong Life Tower was Taiwan's tallest building when it opened in 1993. In 1997 it was surpassed by the Tuntex 85 Sky Tower in the city of Kaohsiung. Both were overtaken in height by Taipei 101 in 2004.
The Shin Kong Life Tower represents a pioneering response by Taiwan's building planners to the challenge of providing high-rise architecture in a demanding environment that could unite the functions of office building, shopping centre and public square. A decade later Taipei 101 offered a superlative realization of the same ambition.Design and construction
The 10,000-square-meter plot of land across from Taipei Main Station was owned by four companies in 1981 when discussions began about ways to develop the site. Agreement on a plan was never reached and ownership of the land passed to two companies in 1985. The company that held the eastern half, Asiaworld International Group, built the Asiaworld Department Store on its parcel; the store opened in 1990. The company that held the western half, Shin Kong Life Insurance Company, hired Kaku Morin Group (KMG) Architects and Engineers of Japan to build a dual-use tower that would house offices and a major department store.
Space limitations and heavy traffic at the site made the task a challenge. KMG created a 1,170-square-meter plaza around the tower by setting the front of the building 31 meters back from the street and setting other sides back to allow wide pedestrian walkways. Inspectors from National Taiwan University were consulted to help ensure the building's stability in earthquakes. The design featured an observatory level at the 46th floor. Separate elevators were installed to serve department store customers, office workers, and visitors to the observatory. Mindful of Taiwan's typhoons and tropical sun, designers used aluminum for the exterior so it would weather well. The rose colour chosen for the exterior was inspired by the national flowers of Taiwan and Japan, the plum blossom and cherry blossom.
Construction of the Shin Kong Life Tower began in 1989. The building was completed at a cost of US$270 million and opened in December 1993.
As a design the Shin Kong Life Tower drew a shrug from architects in and beyond Taiwan. It was generally regarded as a rather plain and old-fashioned design with only height to offer as a distinguishing characteristic. Some saw a design flaw in the placement of retail and office entrances on the same side of the building. Architect Kaku Morin conceded that his design made no novel architectural statement but expressed satisfaction in producing a "healthy" structure. "Construction is as important as design," he told the Taiwan Review in 1995. "A building is like a human body--if it is not healthy, it is nothing no matter how beautiful it is."Today
The Shin Kong Life Tower lived an especially bustling life in the decade after it opened. Its 46th-floor observatory, the highest in Taiwan at the time, opened to the public in 1994 under the management of TopView Taipei Observatory. Over the next twelve years the observatory hosted over four million visitors. The number of guests dropped dramatically after Taipei 101 opened a new observatory at nearly twice the height in January 2005, however, and TopView closed when the company's lease expired in December 2006. Now the 46th-floor observatory is occupied by Naturally-Plus as their headquarter for Taiwan operation and the entrance is free of charge for their members.
Other retailers in the building continue to maintain a busy existence. The location of the tower across from Taipei Main Station ensures heavy pedestrian traffic along the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and Asiaworld storefronts. Weekdays find the streets filled with students attending 'cram schools' in the area. Weekends find Taipei residents enjoying outdoor concerts in the plaza or on the grounds of the nearby station.Nomenclature
English speakers in Taipei often mistakenly refer to the Shin Kong Life Tower as the "Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Building" because the store's name appears on the tower's exterior and many Metro signs. Identifying the building too closely with the store invites confusion, though, as the store operates in more than one location. Taipei 101 has its own Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store as well as a Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Square.