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Moving to Taiwan

Being an expat gives us the unique opportunity to explore new countries and places that we might not have experienced before. And once we have visited the top tourist sites, we often find ourselves looking for even more unique, undiscovered destinations.

With an ever-expanding tourism industry, these places are becoming harder to find. And getting to those untouched gems takes research and effort. It’s because of these two requirements that these places remain so beautiful in the first place; and it’s that which makes it so much more rewarding for those who actually get there.

Taiwan, an undiscovered gem in East Asia, is full of such uncharted areas and is a brilliant destination for those in search of a unique experience.  We recently had an amazing adventure discovering ‘Formosa’s Futuro Village’ in Wanli, just a short distance from Taipei.

The History of the Futuro Village

Architecture

The 1970′s was an interesting and fast-changing decade. New fashions, musical styles, and lifestyles were emerging like never before. People had new ideas, and money was becoming available to buy them as the global economy began to recover from a downturn. Trends were also emerging in architecture that attempted to satisfy those in search of unique homes to match their unique views on life.

In an era where it was believed robots and machines would eventually cure all of humanity’s problems, a Finnish architect called Matti Suuronen designed a new house he christened the ‘Futuro’.  Built out of reinforced fiberglass, this 16-piece ‘pod’ or ‘flying saucer’ shaped house was designed for easy transport and to be sustainable in any environment. Suuronen intended his new design to become a standard for new houses, enabling convenient modern living for everyone.

The Futuro house was designed to be fully mobile. It rested atop four concrete columns and could be relocated to a similar base anywhere in the world. Tired of living on a beach in Hawaii? No problem! Just fly your modular house piece by piece to a ski village in the Swiss Alps where it can be reconstructed and made ready for you.

The interior of the house was also designed with ultimate convenience in mind. The living room had a series of reclining chairs that could be extended into sleepers for guests. These chairs were along the outer walls facing the center of the house where the kitchen and bar area were located. Along the backside of the house, the master bedroom and bathroom were kept tucked away for privacy.

Futuro in Taiwan

Due to increased oil prices which raised the cost of building materials for Futuro homes,  less than 100 were constructed worldwide. Matti Suuronen’s dream of a futuristic world with traveling flying saucer houses whizzing through the air under helicopters died hand in hand with his design in the 1980′s. Before Futuro’s fate ran its course however, one savvy Taiwanese businessman shared Matti Suuronen’s dream and took action.

Mr. Su Ming was a Taiwanese businessman with a vibrant past in the military. One of his first ventures was a now-popular brand of sarsaparilla soda sold throughout Taiwan. His timing was impeccable — with the American establishment of military bases in Taiwan, tastes for both western culture and foods increased and Mr. Su Ming’s sarsaparilla soda sales skyrocketed.

With his new wealth, Mr. Su Ming was anxious to invest and decided to aim at the upscale market of Taiwanese citizenry shopping for vacation homes. He invested in a beautiful beach-front location along the North-eastern coast of Taiwan, and began construction of a housing community filled with Futuro-designed houses as well as traditional beach villas.

Despite his enthusiasm, investors lost interest in the community. Due to the lure of exotic destinations around Asia, coupled with the community’s extreme weather conditions — hot summers and windy, rainy winters — investors chose to look elsewhere and the project was eventually abandoned.

Take a walk through the past for yourself…

This mysterious and intriguing piece of the past is still accessible for anybody looking to wander out of Taipei for a day.  Winding through the mountains and watching while the scenery changes from high rise apartments to green covered green hillsides and temples, you can’t help but begin to appreciate how easy it is to get away from the chaos of city life. In only about an hour, you’ll already be on the  coast. As soon as you get off the coach in Wanli, you’ll be able to spot your first Futuro right away.

What You’ll See

When we arrived the morning was overcast, as it usually is on the northern Taiwan coastline. With rolling grey clouds, dispersed sunlight, and the Futuro houses approaching, the effect was unsettling.

While wandering through the community’s deserted streets, the color contrasts and random objects of the ruins presented an amazing window into the past. All of the Futuro homes are now a dull orange or faded light yellow color, indicating their age and difficult life. Rust and salt from the harsh environment stain the facades, and the intense winds have mangled the wind canopies’ steel poles like pipe cleaners bent by a child.

The beach side villas established by Mr. Su Ming provide a unique and interesting glimpse into Taiwan’s past and of global trends in general. The place is a not-to-miss opportunity for any traveler, photographer, or architecture junkie searching for a one-of-a-kind experience. But hurry because it’s impossible to know when Futuro’s days will finally be numbered.

Just a short ride out of Taipei, Futuro is also a nice reminder of how much Taiwan has to offer as a travel destination. The country’s scenery and culture remains rich and unique, yet the modernity of Taiwan makes it all very accessible.

The undiscovered Futuro Village was an amazing travel experience. We would highly recommend it as a day trip for any expat who is interested in a place that is off the beaten path, has a unique and rich story, and delivers it all in a very photogenic package.

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