Hsinchu is a small city with an area of 104 km2 and a population of 450,000, sitting on the coast in the northern part of Taiwan. There is a wonderful complexity at play as it holds the highest number of high-tech companies in Taiwan, but also happens to be an ancient city with over 300 years of history. Due to the recent development and growth of the science park, new citizens continue to migrate. As a result, Hsinchu has transformed into a city with a high income, high education, high birthrate, and young population. Mayor Lin Chih-chien of Hsinchu has prioritized responding to young citizens’ needs of living, culture, and education, and launch a complete transformation of the city.

Hsinchu’s old downtown area is the oldest part of the city and is characterized by its small size and narrow streets. Walking around, historic sites and old shops are just around the corner, and every step taken is part of the city’s cultural memory. However, with the development of the science park and the shift of the urban center, the development of the old downtown area stagnated. Hsinchu City Government decided to revisit this area as the starting point of the city’s transformation. Taking advantage of these dense quarters, the city has proposed the ‘Pedestrian City Project’ and applied for subsidy of the national government that is destined for ‘Forward-Looking Infrastructure Development Programs.’

Hsinchu City has introduced design thinking into city governance, allowing design to blend with local culture and history. Hitstoric sites, such as Hsinchu Train Station and the Shinchiku (Hsinchu) Prefecture Library Women and Children’s Hall, have been renovated to rediscover and spotlight the city’s historical memories. As for quality of life, the city prioritizes citizens’ needs, and has taken on a human-centric approach, respected professionals, and adopted subtraction design for the renovation of Hsinchu Park, Hsinchu Zoo, and the city’s waterfront. The city has also expanded the scope of transformation, striving to become a more livable city through New School Campus Movement, a park renovation project, signage system redesign, safe pedestrian routes, pedestrian-friendly intersections, and underground transmission lines.

To showcase its achievements, Hsinchu hosted the Taiwan Design Expo, a national-level event, and broke the traditional spatial format to convert the entire city into the exhibition space. Citizens were invited to enter the city and the exhibition venues, which are the same sites currently being renovated. With the theme “Check in Hsinchu,” Hsinchu presented two main exhibition venues, six pedestrian routes, and 12 pavilions, along a single axis, and introduced Hsinchu’s unique technological foray into design, using magical lights and data to lead people onto a journey where the 300-year-old ancient city becomes a city of digital technology. The expo also designed and created the “Hsinchu Monsters” in various corners of the city to attract people into the small alleys in the old downtown area, hoping to generate experiences and consumption of goods; wandering through those alleys, the visitors had an opportunity to learn about the history of their city, but also reinvigorate and restore liveliness to the area.

According to Commonwealth Magazine’s “2020 City Happiness Survey,” over 90% of Hsinchu citizens express that they are happy living in the city. We have also discovered that Citizen Happiness Index are significantly higher in cities where the mayors value design. It has been proven that Taiwanese society is no longer after numbers when it comes to government satisfaction; people now consider social issues, such as the wealth gap, historical preservation, and cultural education. The successful story of Hsinchu has led us to believe that introducing design to a city can change citizen behaviors, solve more urban issues, and nurture unique urban DNA.

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