Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Chung Yung-Feng: Make Dialogue the Core of Design


Good design can help a city move forward. How to design a liveable city while innovating and transforming Taipei? “Make dialogue the core of design,” said Commissioner Chung Yung-feng of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei. Taipei has rich history and culture, and through the process of continuous evolution, it has carried the blood of reform and fostered diverse hybrid creativity. How can Taipei possess sustained innovative energy? According to Chung, civic dialogue and interaction will bring the city more possibilities.


Taipei, Diverse and Complex

Slightly bearded, Chung Yung-feng looks like a romantic artist. He listens to Bob Dylan, reads Du Fu’s poetry written in tumultuous times, and he has participated in social movements, assumed public posts, and won Golden Melody Best Lyrics Award. Together with his partner Lin Sheng-xiang, they create songs that belong to Taiwan. Through various ways, he loves this soil tenderly. Moving from Meinong to Taipei, he sees a hybrid city that gathers people from all over Taiwan, or different countries, and cultures. Taipei’s diversity provides the city rich nutrients, but has also made the city a complex organism full of all kinds of background sounds.

Commissioner of Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government

According to Chung, Taipei has seen more and more reflective dialogues in recent years on the cultural context of Taipei. Where did Taipei come from? How does the city operate? “Every morning, so many vegetables, fruits, and meat products are transported into Taipei from southern Taiwan, and so many people ensure smooth operation of the city through labor and transportation in and out of the city, but how many actually think about the relation between Taipei and Taiwan?” Chung spoke with an unhurried tone; when a question was raised, he would think for a while before giving his reply.  With a background in civil engineering, Chung speaks with logics; he also has studied sociology that enables him to observe “people.”


“A major key to Taipei’s progress is that we need broader and more accepting understanding and direction,” said Chung. Design is not just about visible creative works, the invisible link between designers and people is even more important.As an advanced and competitive city, Taipei no longer pursues expansion and singularization; instead, focusing on “men,” the city is trying to understand the difference between its people, and is more willing to open up to diverse dialogue and communication.


Make Dialogue the Core of Design, Shorten the Gap between Cities

Over 100 WDC volunteers got together at the commencement of Design Elementary School held recently, sharing thoughts and reflections on their experience volunteering for WDC over the past year. From distant to familiar, from feeling shy to being comfortable in front of one another, volunteers’ reflections and transformations deeply touched Chung Yung-feng. Design should be a transformation through which inner world converses with interpersonal relationship; one must first dialogue with self before being able to talk with others, and Taipei must rediscover itself before it gets an opportunity to dialogue with Asia and the world.


How to satisfy the needs of the different groups and generations living in this city? Communication and interaction are important processes. Then, solve complex urban problems through creative and flexible methods to present a unique Taipei. Using WDC Taipei’s “Taipei Issuuuue” exhibition as an example, Chung pointed out that workshops were held for every topic, inviting citizens to partake in numerous sessions of debate and dialogue, allowing the general public to think about the issues and solutions. “Here, you see the personal needs related to issues of climate change, resources, and disabilities; these are the topics and issues everyone will face in daily life.” Entering “Taipei Issuuuue,” visitors could see the diverse energy brought by design. “Design needs time to accumulate,” said Chung. As Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, his greatest challenge is also dialogue. At the City Council, he needs more quantified data to demonstrate “perceivable design.” However, he has always believed that by carrying out small changes, he can accumulate enormous energy.

There are over 9,000 transformer boxes in Taipei, and the city is investigating the color system. After formulating color plans for transformer boxes, the boxes’ colors will blend in with the environment. When we pursue “perceivable design,” the fact is that design is gradually and surely being injected into the city’s blood.



Continuation of Cultural Value, Design is Everywhere

Taipei has both nostalgic and fashionable vibes; it has historic blocks as well as stylish trendy hotels, and the city’s cultural fabric is put on full display in Dadaocheng. On Chifeng Street, we can feel the warmth of and devotion to details in life. To echo the principle of WDC, City Yeast conducted “Parent-Child Market” project at Dongsanshui Street Market near the historic site at Xinfu Market in Wanhua District. The team redesigned and renovated the space in the traditional market, and incorporated local sentiments of the vendors and citizens. Design is not just a one-time thing; it must be sustainable. “Through innovating concept, technology, and facilities, I want to achieve re-signification of traditions,” said Chung. We should enable traditions to collide with the contemporary; design should not be destroying the old, but to facilitate fusion of old and new to answer to our needs.


During his time as Director-General of Cultural Affairs Bureau, Chiayi County, he organized the Tropic of Cancer Environmental Art Action, attempting to integrate art and community culture; later, as Taipei City Hakka Affairs Commissioner, Chung promoted Hakka culture through innovative art actions, devoting to the passing down of cultural heritages. Preserving the root of culture has always been the core pursuit of Chung Yung-feng. Today, he is striving to jointly design  with our citizens a city that preserves culture and has endless creativity. “How can our root, our context, generate richer and meaningful dialogue with the present, which is not rootless, but a continuation of cultural value?” Asked Chung. Therefore, we see more and more people entering traditional sites to sew the seeds of design and innovation; they have injected culture into the corners and markets of Taipei. Taipei is changing, and design is everywhere.