Scanning the silhouette of Keelung’s mountainous landscape, you’lI find many ups and downs… This is a place where things rise and things fall. But what can you take from this observation? I like to play with the dualities of the ups and the downs, the idea that what rises must leave something behind and hence whatever goes up must come down to retrieve what is left. The story of Keelung’s “UFO Homes” — nestled in Emerald Bay by Yehliu Geopark — encapsulate this poetic rise and fall and provide a philosophical musing on what it means to move towards the future. Come with me as we explore the history of Keelung’s “Futuros.”
A Man with A Plan: Mr. Su Ming
Now, this brings me back to Keelung in the 1970s. Mr. Su Ming was a government official who arrived in Taiwan from mainland China following the Chinese Civil War. This new land gave him a new life and a chance to evaluate his career prospects: no longer would he have to work as a civil servant. He started working as an entrepreneur, working with his American friends to produce sarsaparilla soda, a popular western snack. This drink was an immediate hit in Taiwan and Su soon amassed great wealth.
This success had him thinking bigger and bigger. Riding the momentum of Taiwan’s economic growth, he spread his profits across several companies selling household items. During “Taiwan’s Economic Miracle,” disposable cash was flowing in excess, and Su had observed the trend of newly established hotels, resorts and entertainment developments. He noticed a lack of proper beach resorts and subsequently found his niche in the market.
He’d struck gold! Guns blazing, he played to his strengths: using past connections as a civil servant he was able to bypass many regulations in purchasing beach front property, which put him ahead of his rivals. Additionally, the government was supportive of his plans as they hoped to please the American Servicemen stationed in Taiwan during the Vietnam War, who would be attracted by a beach resort. By the 1980s, construction of a beach resort in Keelung’s Emerald Bay had begun.
Back to The Futuro
The 60s and 70s were a creative and colorful era, especially in America, with rapid modernity and people looking to the prospects of the future. Su wanted to use futuristic ideas to appeal to rich and foreign customers.
Su took inspiration from Finish Architect Matti Suuronen’s 60s Futuro-Style Homes, which were locally described as UFO houses.
However, there was much more to Suuronen’s Futuros than their dreamy aesthetics. They were constructed using lightweight-fiberglass reinforced plastic, and therefore there was no need for additional insulation. Further, they were raised off the ground by 4 metal leg supports, which reduced impact on the ground and prevented the use of expensive grading and excessive excavation. The Futuros could essentially be placed on any topography.
Each spanning a humble area of 50 square-meters, the Futuros included a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and private bedroom.
However, despite his meticulous and contemporary design, Suuronen was unable to predict the volatility of the global economy. By 1973, following a major oil crisis, his budget had been drawn out. The Futuros became exhaustingly expensive to manufacture and transport. Through this tragic irony Matti Suuronen’s dream crumbled before his eyes. The Futuros would have no place in the future…
Back 2 The Futuro
…Or would they? Despite the Futuros commercial failure, their concept inspired and attracted the attention of designers and architects worldwide, reaching Emerald Bay, Keelung, Taiwan 10 years in the 1980s.
Mr. Su Ming took direct inspiration from Suuronen’s Futuros when designing his resort, however Su’s imitations are primarily aesthetic, and he took little notice of the originals’ engineering facets and cost saving initiatives. They are no longer propped up by a four-legged metal base, but instead placed on a concrete base elevated much higher off the ground. Additionally, there is a solid set of concrete stairs leading up to the entrance. Su built 60 of these Futuro-inspired homes along Emerald Bay, the highest density of homes in this style in the entire world! However, success was not inevitable…
The Futuros’ story is a poetic tragedy: we dream of escaping reality and running towards the future, thus we chase after our desire with little care for where we step. A future full of possibility, blissfully wrapped in a cot of ignorance.
Mr. Su Ming also could not predict the volatility of the Global Market: almost overnight, the sun had set on Taiwan’s Economic Miracle, leaving Su and his Futuros standed on an empty beach. Facing economic difficulties and a significant decrease in tourism, Su was left with several unfinished hotels and hot spring resorts that he could not possibly profit from.
Crashing like a wave on the shore, all at once it fell short. Emerald Bay became a washed up paradise that escaped all its promise.
Emerald Bay Today
Emerald Bay may not be home to a futuristic resort today, but there is still lots that are worth it to check out here. The sight hosts a surfing community of friendly locals, which is a good place to catch a wave away from all the ruckus. Personally with a white sandy beach creeping out from a dilapidated backdrop, its the perfect picture for me. I find myself attracted to this ghost town; in a dream of the future from the past, I find a homely form of escapism, a nostalgia for the past future and as the old light sets on this present show of sand.
Walking Around the Futuro
At the Futuro site, with rusting relics looming over us everywhere, I felt like I was in an old scary movie. Accompanied by our own bright backpacks, we looked just like the team from Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’. You can step inside some of the homes and find out what life might have been like living in one. But watch your step, as there are a couple of homes people actively live in.
Walking around the Futuros
Out side of the homes you’ll find a few of Mr. Su Ming’s hotels and hot spring resorts. By the main entrance there is an epic hot spring resort styled like a castle, its a shame but you can really get a picture of Su’s vast optimism and aspirations for this place.
If your interested in walking around this ghostly village i recommend joining us in August, as we guide you through the bright bustling streets in our ‘Ghost Festival Tour’. Click Below to Find out more and Book your place with us.
By car or bike, the resort sits around 40 mins away from Keelung Maritime plaza. There is a public bus every 15 minutes going from Maritime Plaza to Green Bay (Vice Verca), which will drop you right out side of the entrance labeled ‘Green Bay Hot Spring Hotel’.
Another 15 minutes further down the coast you’ll find yourself surround by gorgeous colored cliffs and a vast array of coastal formations as you enter Yehiliu Geo Park. I had a great time learning about the coastal formations, tracing the spit to its summit, passing by and having a chat to bird watchers. I recommend adding this along to your trip to the Futuros, although be warned it is major attraction with a singular narrow path so prepare to shimmy your way through the masses at peak hours of the day.
Looking forward to seeing this collection of coastal colors, then why not take a wander with us. Take comfort in our expertise and get the full experience whilst we take sail around Heping Isalnd and Zhengbin Fish Port. Click Below to Find out More & Book a place with us.
Simirlarly here are some of our other articles I recommend reading following your interest in the Futuro’s:
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