The journey towards the top of Taipei 101, the current record holder as the world’s tallest skyscraper, begins with a high-speed elevator ride that ferries you up to the 89th floor in 37 seconds. As the sliding doors of the elevator parted ways, two flight of stairs welcome and lead you to the circular outdoor deck that sits on the 91st floor of Taipei 101.
Go in the late afternoon to enjoy the warm embrace of the setting sun, and you’ll notice right away the new condominiums springing up in the east. Far in the south, mountains form tall dark silhouettes, enveloping the precipice of the city. Finally, in the west and north, you’ll find a bustling city center with numerous skyscrapers and endless throng of masses making their way through Taipei. One can’t help but notice an air of irresistible romanticism about gazing at Taipei and all its glory from more than 400 meters high above its urban heart.
When it was unveiled on New Year’s Eve in 2004, Taipei 101 was the city’s way of announcing to the world that it has arrived on the global scene. It represented a metropolis of 6 million seeking its rightful place on the international stage, an instant landmark that’s become a showcase for the city’s global ambition. Various symbolisms highlight the proud heritage behind Taiwan, its oriental influence and the modernization that has taken place throughout the city.
The main tower features a series of eight segments of eight floors each, an obvious association to abundance, prosperity and good fortune. Its shaped like an Asian pagoda, while numerous motif of the ruyi – an ancient symbol associated with heavenly clouds – appear throughout the structure. The structure was engineered to be able to withstand gale winds of 60 mps, and the strongest earthquakes likely to occur in a 2,500 year cycle. This claim was tested when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Taipei in 2002. Construction was still ongoing, and the tremor was strong enough to topple two construction cranes from the 56th floor, then the highest. Five people were killed in the accident, but an inspection afterwards showed no structural damage.
As I enjoyed a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping authentic Viennese coffee in one of its numerous cafes, a group of Western tourists made their way up with their local guide. They turtled their way up, marveling at the spectacular architecture and snapping pictures here and there. This grandiose structure stood tall as a testament of how far Taipei have come from when the Nationalist government took control in 1949, an achievement they can be truly proud of.
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