This past week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Taipei Dream Community, a fascinating place where Gordon Tsai has used real estate to push forward hippie dreams–redeveloping Xizhi (汐止), stimulating community through carnivals, and artist residencies.
Gordon was born in Xizhi, Taipei District. Xizhi missed the Taipei boom because the land flooded often enough to prevent development, but wa dry enough that the poor accumulated there. As a boy, he dreamed of bringing wealth to his home district and improving the lives of his family and neighbors. He began developing the area over thirty years ago, but realized buildings didn’t actually accomplish what he had hoped to build–a place that was comfortable and safe and filled with shared lives and friendships.
So Gordon began touring to see how other places nourished community and became a fan of carnival. He used profits from the first building to establish the Dream Community Foundation, which (today, after almost 20 years of work) funds monthly carnivals througout Taiwan and a major annual carnival in Taipei.He has developed the carnivals through artist residencies, bringing in artists to teach and learn different skills related to carnival–making costumes and large puppets, dance and music, and community organizing.
How did he do it? Each of the Xizhi Dream Community real estate projects (they are now working on the fifth) has been developed through collaboration with artists. While the building is under construction (and even as families moved in), artists have been invited to live in the rooms and use them as art workshops. While they are there, the Foundation provides a small stipend and two meals. As the foundation has grown, it has participated in other carnivals (most recently Burning Man) and also expanded its outreach to other forms of art, including large-scale recycled sculpture, mosaic, and glasswork.
In Dream Community 5, where we stayed, Gordon has used the bathrooms as sites for learning creative mosaic. And the mosaics are stunning. Most have been designed and completed by mosaic newbies, who applied for a residency to learn to make mosaics that include stone, ceramics, and glass. Indeed, Dream Community 5 is so impressive, Gordon is reluctant to sell the condos which themselves include an amazing collection of site specific art pieces and, of course, the carnival team.