Feng shui employed in building of new AIT complex: Ex-AIT chairman

Taipei, Construction of the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound took "an awful long time," but the finished work, in which feng shui had a role, looks "attractive and functional," a former AIT chairman told CNA Wednesday.

Raymond Burghardt, who served as chairman of the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan from 2006 to 2016 and was responsible for choosing the site in Neihu District for the new complex, said he is delighted to see the work nearing completion, although it took nearly a decade to build. The building looks beautiful compared with other U.S. embassies he has visited before, he said.

To meet growing demand, the AIT took out a 99-year lease on the site in Neihu from the Taipei City government in 2004. The AIT's new office compound stands on a 6.5-hectare hillside site within walking distance of the Neihu station on the MRT's Brown Line.

The compound was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015 but has suffered delays.

The AIT held a dedication ceremony Tuesday to unveil the nearly completed 14,934-square-meter, five-story complex. Staff are not scheduled to move into the new building until sometime after September, with Burghardt among those invited to attend the opening.

Burghardt said he was directly involved in choosing the site and that he chose the location because he believes it has good feng shui, as the site has a mountain at its back and river in front.

He disclosed the he did not hire a feng shui master but made the decision based on his own knowledge of basic feng shui concepts as well as advice from his Taiwanese friends.

However, when construction began, engineers found some problems, he disclosed. The site is on the side of a mountain where it rains frequently, and it took a tremendous amount of time and money to build retaining walls and other facilities so that water could be drained from the site.

"I felt a little guilty about that," he said.

But the long wait is more than worth it, Burghardt went on. He said he was told that both President Tsai Ing-wen (???) and former President Ma Ying-jeou (???) said that the new building has a very "American flavor."

He said he did not know exactly what they meant but believes it is because the compound is airy and has a lot of natural light, with a perfect combination of natural wood and stone.

Asked about which part of the new building he likes best, the ex-AIT head said that the complex has many informal meeting places that can also be used for receptions, something that the existing AIT site on Xinyi Road lacks.

Calling it a great asset, he said these spaces can be used to hold receptions or cocktail parties without the need to rent hotel facilities.

Asked to comment on the cross-Taiwan Strait impasse, Burghardt again called on both side to use "creativity, flexibility and patience," phrases he used before he left his AIT post in the summer of 2016.

But he also admitted that the lack of mutual trust between the two sides makes it very difficult to resume official talks.

He said Tsai has indeed shown some creativity and patience, but the problem lies in the fact that "Beijing has not met her halfway."

Asked to come up with some concrete suggestions, Burghardt said Chinese scholars and officials from its Taiwan Affairs Office had previously suggested that Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party could freeze its independence clause in its party constitution to make party-to-party talks possible.

But he speculated that Tsai will not do so, given the upcoming year-end elections. He proposed that the DPP could use private channels to engage in quiet communication in an attempt to rebuild mutual trust.

Tsai's recognition of the existence of a "1992 meeting," but not necessarily a "1992 consensus," in her inaugural speech has reduced Beijing's willingness to openly engage with her administration.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel