For centuries, wanderers and adventurers have stopped at this little island nation to explore its fantastic natural beauty and diverse cultures. Today, the proud island of Taiwan is still a major tourist destination, drawing millions every year with its multifaceted culture, fascinating history and numerous attractions.
Up Close and Personal in Taipei 101
I was crouched over the toilet bowl, looking at the floor, at nothing in particular actually, when I felt the building move. I looked hard at the wood-paneled flooring. Nothing gave way, nothing caved in but yes! – there it is again, the ground beneath my feet was gently but perceptibly swaying, like the gallery of an airplane caught in turbulence.
My first impulse was to run out of the cubicle in panic when I remembered I was in the world’s tallest loo, located in the Observatory of Taipei 101. The world’s tallest building was built to sway; it will sway when buffeted by gales, it will sway when hit by typhoons; it will sway when struck by earthquakes but one thing it is designed NOT to do is to topple over. With that in mind, I coolly walked out of the washroom and proceeded to admire the fantastic panoramic view of the city from the 89th floor of the megastructure.
Taipei 101 is a brave new building. Having wrested the title of the world’s tallest occupied building from the Petronas Twin Towers in 2004, its 101 stories are designed to defy nature in a land that has to live with earthquakes and typhoons. In fact the construction of 101 is not free from tragedy. In 2003, a 6.8 earthquake caused a crane to break free from its moorings and plunge 56 floors, killing 5 people instantly. Nevertheless, the building itself reacted as expected and remained structurally resilient.
Visually, Taipei 101 is not particularly spectacular. If you ask me to describe it, I’d say it looks like a column of supermarket shopping baskets stacked one on top of the other. The designers however, have likened their creation picturesquely to a bamboo stalk reaching for the sky. Ah well, it’s all in the point of view.
In the centre of the observatory, a circular room houses the secret to 101’s stability – a giant sphere that looks like it is made up of huge discs of differing sizes. This wind damper, as large as a house and the world’s biggest (naturally) occupies over 2 floors. The solid sphere starts from the 87th floor and protrudes into the 89th. It is kept in place by piston-like supports , which only serve to make the whole contraption look like some alien spaceship!
The weather was fine that day. I went up 2 more floors to the outdoor observatory where I felt the full force of the winds at 500 metres above sea level. I could literally hear the winds howl and the structure moan and creak, and find myself walking as unsteadily as a drunk as swaying became more pronounced. It was an experience worth all of NTD450!