The Dark History of Taiwan’s UFO Villages

In the late 1950s, fueled by the technological optimism born in the aftermath of World War II, the construction world began to explore industrialized building systems that could be designed for all types of buildings, but particularly houses. The idea was not to build, but to mass-produce repeatable models that could be assembled quickly and easily, a significant advance over the older, slower and more expensive traditional tiling and woodworking techniques. Leading architects such as Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe or Charles and Ray Eames worked on this research and achieved impressive results and real masterpieces of modern construction, such as the Case Study Houses in California . Marvels of industrial elegance that will mark the emergence of an American architectural tradition.

A term later, and for more different reasons (perhaps the emergence of New Age philosophy, hippieism, or the influence of new television science fiction from Star Trek to Lost in Space), some of these experiments were UFO-shaped: cylindrical modules made of curved Aluminum or polyester sheets designed and manufactured in aeronautical facilities because their construction resembled that of an airplane or ship much more than that of of a country house. The prefabrication was not limited to the assembly parts, but to the whole house. The pot left the factory fully assembled, mounted on a truck and parked where its owners wanted.

However, the vast majority of these prefabricated cylindrical houses remained temporary pavilions and ephemeral constructions. At least in the west, because in Taiwan it has not been said that there was no need to build a public bath built on the foundations of this type of house: the ovoid square of Sanzhi.

Work on Sanzhi UFO Village began in 1978, and a total of 126 pink, blue, green, and yellow houses were built.The The Taiwanese “seaside resort” remained deserted for almost thirty years until the authorities decided in 2008 to demolish the entire complex.

The city was designed in the late 1970s to serve as a ceremonial center for US Army officers stationed on bases in the Pacific. Work began in 1978 and twenty-one modules were installed, each consisting of 16 fiberglass-reinforced polyester UFOs painted in a variety of colors. A total of 126 pink, blue, green and yellow UFOs. The forecast, of course, was to install 500 UFOs which would provide accommodation for some 2,000 people.

But they were never finished. Work was brought to a standstill in 1980 after a series of inexplicable accidents on the adjacent roads, which caused great panic among the superstitious workmen of the potholes. The circumscribed sign indicates that this was all the result of a curse triggered when they widened the roads that led to the new city. That to complete the task, they had to cut the beginning of the dragon sculpture that served as the attack gate. The dragon was very angry for missing the start and cursed the works, causing fatal accidents and dooming the city to a future of misfortune.

Other rumors claim that the precinct where the convoluted was built was in the Band of the Headless Dragon in a Dutch WWII martial graveyard, which gave the story a bit more cinematic darkness as it was very similar to the movie Poltergeist, but more likely it replaces quaint American suburbia. home amazed by colorful plastic UFOs. Happy too, yes.

The Futuro house designed by Finnish architect Matti Suurone in Baden-Württemberg (Germany).The Futuro house designed by Finnish architect Matti Suurone in Baden-Württemberg (Germany).

It would be epic if hordes of Flemish ghost soldiers wandered beneath the eerie shadow of a titanic beginningless dragon, but sadly the explanation is far more mundane. Investors simply ran out of quarters.

Sanzhi’s convolution didn’t work because assembling, moving, and installing the UFO houses was much more expensive than it seemed at first glance, and the costs skyrocketed. Eventually the work stopped and the thing was left in a state of increasing and gradual decline. The artificial lakes that animated the plateau were never filled and the pools and slides were never used because the UFOs never had a single resident inside. Neither bag, nor terrestrial, nor from another galaxy.

The complex remained disorderly and in ruins for almost thirty years until the authorities decided in 2008 to demolish it due to the unsanitary conditions. Some area residents requested that at least one of the modules be kept as a symbol of a future that would never come, but they were ignored. Until the anniversary, there is only grass on the grounds of Sanzhi UFO City. No prefabricated cylindrical houses, swimming pools, Dutch ghosts or beginningless dragons. Luckily for those interested in urban eccentricities, Taiwanese property developers didn’t seem entirely sane, for when Sanzhi failed, they didn’t give up on building an ovoid plaza and decided to build just 30 kilometers in Wanli prefecture.

Unlike Sanzhi, Wanli used two well-known models of prefabricated houses: the Futuro house and the Venturo house, both designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in the early 1970s. The Venturo is an elegant cuboid with rounded edges that has had worldwide success. Many have been made and are being made, although most have been used for stalls, pop-up cafes and similar short-lived constructions. The future almost verbatim mimics the collective cannon of a flying saucer, screeching pretty much off-axis like a 1950s B-movie sci-fi flick.

California Case Study Houses, like the Eames House pictured, were born with the idea of ​​mass-producing models that could be quickly assembled.California case-study houses, like the Eames house pictured here, were born with the idea of ​​mass-producing models that could be quickly assembled. Carol Highsmith (Getty Images)

In the 1980s and 1990s, Venturo and Futuro models settled around Wanli, forming a kind of colony of strange cottages. The problem is that if the house was certainly cheaper to manufacture and assemble than a traditional construction, it cost much more to extend, so that most of them were abandoned in the splendor of the years. .

The images that a walk in the place of UFOs gives us seem to come from the future. Dirty and precarious alien ships, some manned, others destroyed by time and vandalism. Retro-futuristic curtains behind oval sheets of transparent plastic juxtaposed with corrugated cardboard furniture on which greasy, broken and forgotten televisions rest. Photographs that seem untargetable, as if it was all part of the same semi-fossil vein from a thousand years ago and came from another galaxy.

Pedro Torrijos is an architect and has just printed his first book, Improbable Territories, in which he shares these stories and other curious ones from the world of construction and urban planning.

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