Our final stage of cycling Taiwan Involved over a week of climbing hills, getting caught in the rain and circumnavigating the Sun and Moon lake but never seeing the sun or moon. On route to the north to visit two important paper places, we had heard of the Paper Dome. Originally designed and built in Japan by Shigeru Ban (Pritzer Architecture prize in 2014), in response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe city. The designer wanted to create a place of worship and a spiritual sanctuary. The materials used where paper boards. Columns made from reinforced card and paper screens. It was moved to Taiwan in 2005 and open to the public 3 years later to mark 921 earthquake. A quiet and contemplative place that highlights that paper materials can be used in Architecture.
Goang Xing Papermaking Mill, Puli
A short distance from the Paper Dome we came to Puli, which once had over 40 papermaking mills, due to the quality of spring water and the Japanese introducing it during the occupation. We had discovered there were two mills and workshops open to visitors and selected the one that seemed the most relevant. Goang Xing Mill, (established 1965) was difficult to find but after asking a very nice policewomen where it was, she hopped on to her scooter took us there. The mill was very organised and was set up to cater for several types of visitors. There was a large factory/workspace where the professional paper makers went about producing large sheets. Workshops and tours ran regularly which sat alongside the professionals. Rows and rows of mini workstations were set up to allow visitors to create their own paper. We thought the proximity of working near to the professionals would give the novice a glimpse into the skills and craft involved. The business side of the mill employed many employees who either created the paper, maned the pulp beater, ran workshops, dried the paper or served in the shops. We noticed several details of papermaking differences:
*Fine nylon string was used at the edge of paper to make divides and easy to separate the paper at the drying stage.
*Drying each sheet was done on large metal heated tables. Each sheet carefully placed and brushed down. The steam evaporated and the paper was pealed off the table dry.
*Edible papers where on sale (at the shop & concept cafe).
There were many visitors while we were there and both children and adults where either making paper or going on a tour. The only downside to our visit, we were unable to make
contact with anyone before hand as no emails were answered and language was a barrier.
Suho Paper Memorial Museum, Taipei
Paper is tactile, it’s touch can evoke a thought or past memory. It holds knowledge. Our visit to Suho Paper memorial museum held much more than a tactile experience. We were immersed into a heartwarming families narrative of the Suho and Fenzo brands. We had not experienced a visit like this one before. The energy, commitment and passion poured from Lino and Rita as they told us the history and drive behind the project. We both felt emotional as Lino showed us around the museum and began telling us about her Grandfather (Suho) who’s ambition was to open a museum on paper as he wanted to give back to his community after running several successful paper mills in Taiwan. Unfortunately a tragic plane crash in China in 1999 took both Lino’s grandparents. Rita, (Suho’s daughter) found strength and courage to take on her fathers dream and create such an incredible museum.
As they told us how the project grew and touring the museum it was a place full of love, energy and humility. It is a powerful place, it feels genuine and humble. The museum is over four floors and each one offers a different experience. From open viewing demonstrations on paper making and shop to temporary exhibition space, a permanent display covering paper history and technical insights to the roof terrace for hands on workshops. The combination of all these aspects is refreshing and has been created to engage people in a contemporary way. We took tea with Rita and Lino in the bamboo room used for meetings and events. They have really created a versatile, active and flexible museum in the heart of Taipei.
Rita took us all to lunch and we chatted about our project and cycling adventures. There was more than paper connecting us as we felt a powerful energy between four women. On our return we visited the new showroom, which will be their artists & designers collaborative space. Beautifully designed, the interior will showcase Fenzo’s paper range, which it’s name has come from Rita’s mother name.
The fibres entwine to form what we know as paper and the Suko and Fenzo family are conjoined to form the strongest paper fibre we have experienced in our journey.
Short clips showing 2 different Paper making styles and qualities of paper-making from Goang Xing mill:
All photographs and videos are taken by Jack Blake & Barbara Salvadori 2018©