Two factories on opposite sides of the railway by Chiayi Station. One for sorghum wine, one for gas. One restored after years of disuse, the other half abandoned.
This former government run distillery occupies a huge site just south of Chiayi station. The earliest parts date from 1916. Production ceased in 1999 and the factory was disused until recently. It's currently being re-purposed as a cultural and creative park, a little bit like Huashan in Taipei. I see a lot of criticism of Huashan and the Songshan Tobacco Factory as places that have been taken over by wealthy commercial interests. A lot of this criticism is valid. Too much of what was supposed to be a space for young artists to gain exposure has been turned into expensive Eslite style stationery and design shops. However with events like Free Art Taipei I do think Huashan is beginning to fulfill its original purpose.
With the Chiayi site I personally know the people running it. It seems to me that they recognize what went wrong at Huashan and they are determined not to repeat it. They are offering residencies and exhibition space for young artists and keeping the site free of department stores. Actually the only commercial business I've seen on the site so far is an Alleycats Pizza. I hope their vision continues!
The site can be split into two parts sitting either side of a wide path. On one side there are a group of more modern factory buildings from the 1960's and 70's, and an old red brick warehouse. On the other side there's a collection of beautiful art-deco structures that are the color of wheat and have a stumpy chimney beside them.
The red brick building is the oldest on the site. It's been a little over-restored but it's very beautiful. There are some strange diagonal marks on the front that look like roof outlines so perhaps it had buildings to the front of it before. On either side of it are factory buildings but for some reason they've been clad weirdly and made to look brand new. I asked the people running the site if they'd built some new offices and they told me with a little embarrassment that they were part of the original factory too. Inside their former uses are a little clearer and some equipment has been left too.
I'm very pleased to see that a lot of old machines like the bottlers and the huge boilers below have been left in the warehouses. I think it's a shame so many buildings in Taiwan have everything inside them ripped out during restoration.
The art-deco part of the site dates mostly from 1931. The chimney was originally double height, and I though perhaps an earthquake had knocked it over. Apparently though there used to be houses around the chimney. After a large earthquake the residents were understandably nervous about it toppling onto them, so they demanded it be reduced.
To the rear of these buildings is a tall black structure where barley was sorted. My pictures from the aerial walkway don't really capture how huge this space is.
In this large warehouse all the roof windows are controlled by moving this little lever. It's a delicate and complicated mechanism.
The Winery site is easy to find just south of the station. Parts are still not open to the public but this will change in the coming months. Many thanks to Lisa and Sharon for showing me around. Until Jan 2017 I have an exhibit in the main building. Nearby are the Monopoly Bureau Building, another fantastic 1930's art-deco design, and a toyshop with an inflatable dinosaur outside. The Monopoly Bureau will eventually become a city art gallery.
Lianhua Gas Factory
Across the tracks from the Winery I spotted a red brick warehouse covered in trees. I was a little curious and had to go and take map-making photos over there. The site is only partially abandoned. A company filling gas canisters occupies the more modern parts. However I feel they weren't the original tenants. The reason for this is this camels. The site is covered in yellow camels. Before I found the current name I nicknamed it Camel Steel. It's such an unusual logo, and an animal that is of course quite remote to Taiwan, that I'm very intrigued to know what company used it as their logo.
The interesting part consists of a few interconnected brick warehouses. I can't quite tell their age but I'd guess at 1940's or early 50's. It looks as though they've been abandoned for decades.
There's a small rail siding on the grounds which looks wide enough for carts.
This is not a place I can see being saved, despite its quirky camels, so I'm glad I got to record it before it goes. I have a feeling it'll be demolished when the station is redeveloped in a couple of years. The profusion of banyan trees clinging to the largest warehouse are picturesque and I hope that one at least may be reused. Next door there was a pile of metal filings that made a nice contrast with the greenery. The streets around the factory are enjoyable to walk around with a lot of old houses and interesting people.