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World Design Capital designation tribute to Taipei residents' efforts

To most newcomers, Taipei is an ugly city compared to its Western counterparts, like Paris, London or New York, due mostly to the island's high humidity and temperatures, which wear down building exteriors much faster than in temperate climates. To a soaring number of residents, though, the inner beauty of Taiwanese homes, the creative designs of Made-in-Taiwan products and the urban renewal efforts made by local authorities have started to bear fruit, to the point that Taipei was recently appointed as the World Design Capital (WDC) 2016.

Every city has its own unique character and Taipei is no exception. In just 50 years, our capital city has reinvigorated its urban landscape to include a sophisticated subway system, specialized medical care and a bustling cultural infrastructure such as the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山 1914園區) and Songshan Cultural and Creative Park (松山文創園區), to name just a few.

Under the WDC's theme “Adaptive City — Design in Motion,” Taipei will further demonstrate why cities must be able to adapt to meet citizens' demands. Our city has indeed been in a state of change, whether willingly or reluctantly, throughout its history. This unique feature can be attributed to its success as the political, economic, cultural and technological center of the Republic of China. According to the Global Livable Cities Index published last month by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Asia Competitiveness Institute, Taipei was even ranked 27th among 64 cities as the most livable city in the world.

Ahead of the WDC 2016, we hope the Taipei City government will continue to put in the necessary resources to fully benefit its residents. We are looking forward to the city's newly launched “Public Policy by Design” program, which comprises over 20 projects intended to strengthen the relationship between designers, as well as between the public and private sectors. To date, Taipei has hosted more than 645 cross-disciplinary design workshops, attracting more than 800 designers and professionals to participate in various projects. We are confident that such collaborations will result in new developments like the recently completed project to design new work clothes and tools for the city's street cleaners. The project not only delivered new outfits that increase the visibility of cleaners on the job, but also improved their work safety and self-esteem, and offered a new set of tools that will reduce the cost of maintenance.

Such breakthroughs were already acknowledged by the selection committee of foreign experts, who not only praised the policies developed by city authorities, but also pointed to the efforts made by Taipei residents to improve their living environment. The organizers must now work closely with organizations of implementation in Taipei over the course of the next two years to help put into place the proposed program and demonstrate that Taipei is a city driven by design.

The good news is that Taipei plans to focus on issues of sustainability and the responsibility of preserving the environment for future generations. The city authorities' bid will also help preserve a balance between innovation and a respect for nature to further optimize citizens' quality of life. The major challenge of urban planning in Taipei today is that of shifting the city's focus from physical infrastructure to cultural and natural developments that allow citizens to embrace and interact with their surroundings.

If the WDC designation can successfully act as a catalyst for the city's existing industrial ecology, leading to the creation of more investment opportunities and job openings, there is little wonder that the increase in human resources will help establish more market opportunities for the city's design industry. In this eventuality, it is poised to create a win-win development for both the city and its residents.

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