Located in Taiwan’s second most populous city, Taichung, the Qianyue building (千越大樓) is one of the most astonishing abandoned places we have ever explored.
The fact that this desperate-looking structure remains aloft in the heart of an area of the city which is clearly on the up struck us as strange (*). We also thought it was a bit odd that, given we were in a country that is pretty hot on its health and safety regulations, we were free to enter and explore any part of the building that was not padlocked, which, in reality, was most of it.
(*) There was plenty of construction work taking place in the vicinity of the Qianyue building when we visited in February 2018, including the nearby railway station, which was receiving a massive overhaul.
But the thing that got us the most was that this dilapidated building wasn’t completely abandoned. Beyond the street level, where there are some small shops and a few restaurants, all the floors are unoccupied except for the fifth which, unbelievably, contains a few liveable apartments, a co-working space, and the ‘office’ of Escape Plan X, the street artists responsible for most of the artwork that is prevalent throughout this urban landmark. Even one of the two elevators worked, although we thought it prudent to take the stairs when we went inside the structure for a look around!
Forgetting for a moment the rooftop and the building’s highly recognisable circular structure, which many say resembles a UFO, the interior of the Qianyue building is in a terrible state until you reach the fifth floor. The corridors are dark and dingy, as are the rooms that lead off them. Many of them are full of junk and disused paraphernalia.
The Qianyue building was constructed in the late 1970s as a dual residential and commercial complex. Inside were apartments, restaurants, nightclubs, a department store and a number of smaller retail outlets laid out on twelve above-ground floors according to the lift buttons. Apparently, there was even an ice rink in the basement. It was at the centre of Taichung’s well-known Electronic Street and thrived for a couple of decades thereafter. But, by the turn of the century, this part of the city was in general decline and this extended to the Qianyue building, which fell into a state of disrepair (*).
(*) This was caused predominately by the fact that the industrial and manufacturing epicentre of Taichung moved westwards to the Xitun district of the city.
Update October 2019: for an update regarding the Qianyue building, read the informative comment at the end of the post from Wendy at the Nomadic Vegan.
By the early noughties, residents and businesses were moving out and the final kick in the teeth for the Qianyue building was a fire in 2005 that ravaged the nightclub on the seventh floor.
As for our experience, we first clapped eyes on the building when we checked into our hotel. It was just across the street and we had a clear view but, as it was late afternoon, we decided to wait until the next day before venturing inside (*).
(*) We visited several abandoned locations in Taiwan and this helped us improve our urbexing skills but we are still at the level where we like to enter somewhere during good daylight hours!
The following morning, we simply walked in via the obvious main entrance, ignored the dodgy-looking elevator and proceeded to explore floor by floor until we reached the rooftop. Apart from interesting wall art, particularly on the fifth floor, the lower levels were not that interesting. Many of the rooms and corridors were accessible but they were dark, full of junk and there wasn’t a great deal to see.
We didn’t come across anyone else on our way up but, as we descended, there were two elderly Taiwanese guys sitting in the chairs on the fifth floor in the photo below. They gave us a smile and polite nod but, otherwise, paid us no attention.
Eventually, we reached the first rooftop, a smallish space that kind of looked like a helicopter pad. I think it was from here that we entered the nightclub that was destroyed in the 2005 blaze but I can’t be sure. The layout of the building was a little confusing to begin with and there are actually two structures, each with its own stairway, linked by a number of short passageways.
From the first rooftop, we started to get some decent views of the city but, not surprisingly, we got the best panorama from the main rooftop, which we reached via a final set of rather steep metal stairs. This was unquestionably the most interesting part of the complex and gave us access to the UFO-shaped structure, which gives the building its distinctive look.
Once a KTV(karaoke)/VIP-style club or an exclusive restaurant, depending on what source you read, it must have been one of the top places in the city to hang out during its heyday. Nowadays, it is by far the most unsafe part of the building. There are gaping holes in the floor and you have to be very careful where you tread. We couldn’t resist going inside, however, and overall spent a good couple of hours wandering around the Qianyue building and even returned the following day to get an alternative view of the city from its rooftop.
It didn’t matter to us that access to the complex was beyond easy and nobody cared if we went in or out (where’s the thrill in that!). For us, personally, it was an absorbing place to explore and we were equally enthralled/baffled as to why a handful of residents remained in-situ, seemingly through choice, although I have nothing to back this up.
I was going to end this post on this note but before doing so decided to find out more about Escape Plan X, those responsible for the building’s artwork.
I’m glad I did. It threw more light on the reasons why the fifth floor remains inhabited. According to the Taipei Times, members of this Taichung-based graffiti collective ‘were spray-painting inside the building to avoid being caught, when one of the property owners gave them permission to paint the fifth and sixth floors and the rooftop, which used to be a revolving restaurant’. According to the newspaper, this was in July 2017 so the artwork we saw during our visit hasn’t been there very long.
The report goes onto say that the group was also responsible for setting up utilities and states that, prior to this, there had been no running water or electricity in the building for about twenty years. This is an interesting point because it would imply it is the artists themselves who have made the fifth floor of the Qianyue building their home.
What’s more, the inhabitants have made a concerted effort to clean the place up somewhat. If you look at the group’s Facebook page, you will notice that they keep telling people that they are welcome to come and visit but not to leave any mess. The following extract is from one of their recent Facebook page entries. It’s translated from the original Mandarin but the message is loud and clear:
“After a lot of time, the escape art team has made it possible for the thousands of buildings (I think they mean ‘people’ here) to come and visit freely, but we are saddened to see this picture now!! (The photo was of a load of discarded bottles and cans on the roof).
We are very pleased to welcome you all to photography. But once again, I’m telling you, ” don’t waste your trash!! But it’s a wasteland, but it doesn’t mean it’s a dump!”. If there is such a situation, we will work together with the administration to collect clean-up fees and charges. If we find out that we have not been notified or registered in advance, we will deal with it directly. We do not want to make it easy for everyone.”
So, there may be changes afoot for the Qianyue building. A spokesman for Escape Plan X has stated that they would like the building to become some sort of urban playground where street artists can legally create their work and, by getting on with the landlord(s) and the local council, they are presumably on their way to achieving this goal.
Perhaps not every street artist is a spray-can-wielding scallywag after all!
Locating the Qianyue building
The Qianyue building is in the central district of a city, 350m northwest of the railway station. It is very easy to spot because of the distinctive circular building on top. The GPS coordinates are 24.13827, 120.68314.
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