An abandoned military base in Taiwan has been given a new lease on life as the Penghu Qingwan Cactus Park, a sprawling leisurely landscape complete with greenhouses full of cacti, an artists' village and plenty of sea views. Designed by CCL Architects & Planners, the tourist attraction has won a 2017 American Architecture Prize.

Abandoned since World War II, the district sat derelict under Coast Guard Administration until 2008, when the local government reclaimed it for public use. After seven years of planning and construction, the site reopened as the Penghu Qingwan Cactus Park.

The overall goal of the project was to blend the natural and artificial, highlighting the area's history while preserving the natural resources, ecological diversity and environmental sustainability. The park is divided into two main parts: a series of cactus greenhouses and an artists' village, all connected with walkways, sweeping grounds and recreational areas.

As you'd expect, cacti are the order of the day in the cactus park, but it's not just about conservation of the plants. The walkways and buildings have been carefully constructed with a cactus motif throughout, adorned with jagged lines, wood and green tones. That's interspersed with rock and concrete, which is designed to preserve the area's basaltic landscape.

The big cactus greenhouse features large windows for ventilation, and basaltic masonry retaining walls adorned with a prism grid design. The outside is wrapped in jagged beams of teak wood, calling to mind a giant cactus.

The Echinocactus grusonii cactus greenhouse resembles the plant even more directly. It's a curved igloo shaped building, made from bended steel covered in white and transparent panels in a tessellating triangle pattern. These panels bring in natural light during the day and when it's lit up from inside, give it a soft glow at night.

The basaltic-based greenhouse and exhibition room are designed with a stonier look, featuring similar masonry retaining walls as the big cactus greenhouse. The roof of this greenhouse features a mosaic of panels to let light in, framed with teak.

Right by the beach, an old coast guard facility has been repurposed into the artists village, complete with a workshop, accommodation, bathroom and an outdoor plaza area. The old buildings have been largely preserved with cosmetic touch-ups, including lining the external walls of the workshop with grey-black pebbles, broken up with wooden panels and dividing lines. Wooden weatherboards have been built as a bathroom, connected to the existing stone building by a steel shed.

The landscape surrounding the park's buildings was designed to maximize water conservation and the health of the plants. The team built on the clever rainwater-recycling system already in place, adding a windbreak standing 180 to 240 cm (71 to 94.5 in) to protect the plants closer to the sea from the cold and salty air.

The Penghu Qingwan Cactus Park was awarded a 2017 American Architecture Prize, for Architectural Design of Agricultural Buildings.

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