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Tuesday, 30 September 2008 01:53

Sustainable architecture by the people for the people


Hsieh Ying-chun was born in Taichung, and grew up in Hualien. After he graduated from Tam Kang University, he devoted himself to the practice of architecture, and received many awards for high tech factory building and public building designs. Soon after the 921 earthquake took place, Hsieh Ying-chun went into the Thao’s tribe in Nantou County where the damage was most severe and conducted the collaborative rehabilitation with the Thao people, an ethnic group with only 300 people left. Hsieh has founded “Atelier 3” in Nantou’s Thao’s tribe and set up his way of practicing sustainable architecture. In recent years, Hsieh has promoted the idea of collaborative building in the Hebei, Henan, Anhui, and Sichuan provinces in China and is continuing to promote his idea of “collaborative construction” and sustainable architecture.

Hsieh Ying-chun thinks that sustainable architecture has three main axes: Social culture, Economy and Environment. It has to be conducted through simplified construction methods, open buildings, and establishment of an economically self- sufficient construction system, which is done by exchange of labor. Also he implanted the concept of environmental protection and Green building to the villagers, helped to construct self-consciousness and cultural diversity in tribal communities, and established local micro-economy units such as cooperatives.

“’Less architecture and more humanity’. This is one phrase I’ve always said. In another words, I tend to practice the simplest and least unadorned architectural style, so that the meaning of culture, society, and community can permeate into the space. It also means to “empty” architecture, and let Humanity, Spirit, and Nature retrieve their prominent position.

Throughout all these years promoting construction solidarity in Thao community and other 921 earthquake aftermath areas, and also practicing sustainable architecture projects in China in recent years, we always insist on our ideas and principles of sustainability. To build sustainable architecture, we not only need to consider technical problems of green architecture, but also the complicated mechanisms of society, culture, and economy lying beneath. It sometimes seems inevitable to give up tradition in the modernization process. However, in the process of rapid change, can we maintain the holistic thinking and arrangements of the whole environment, the society and the culture, like our ancestors did?

I always remember one time when our fellows were staying in tents to pass the winter. A Thao “Ina”(the respectful form of addressing elder women in Thao language) came, carrying an “ancestor spirit basket”(which is a representation of Thao’s religious belief) in her arms, murmuring the name of the ancestors, walking like this all the way into the community. The recently built bamboo houses were still green, and we could smell the fragrance of bamboo in the air. It was when the rehabilitation of the Thao Tribe was almost complete and the Thao families were just moving in that I realized for the first time how genuinely useful I could be to others as an architect.

I’m very grateful to the friends who support us in all kinds of ways!”


Read Hsieh Ying-chun's statement


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Friday, 20 April 2007 05:47

Chou Sheng-Hsin: Taiwan's Thousand MileTrail

Yonghe. Graduate of National Normal University, Social Education Graduate School, and Fu Jen Chinese Department. Executive director of “Thousand Mile Trail” Planning Center and special assistant at Yonghe Community University. Formerly editor of “Humanistic Education Notes” and convener of “Non Combatant Homeland Alliance.”

“Several years ago, I heard Professor Huang Wu Xiong advocate “Walk around Taiwan!” He spoke with feeling of the beautiful scenery of the Taiwan countryside and of its mountains’ forest which was more and more diminishing. Herbicides and mercury lamps are polluting inch by inch the original quiet mountains, plains and trails.
 

Afterwards the Thousand Mile Trail dream gained the support of writer-photographer Xu Ren Xiu and writer Xiao Ye, and, very quickly, the response in all quarters was warm and optimistic.

 
 

"In 2006, the Thousand Mile Trail Movement became a reality. It gradually went from planning to a real citizens’ movement.  Naturally, the movement has to take into account each place’s natural environment, culture, architecture, mountains’ trails, scenic hostels, organizing junctions, linking them together over the whole of Taiwan. We began to search for and collect every kind of materials, including laws and regulations, the conditions of the trails, etc. We tried to give our Thousand Mile Trail its real life features. At the same time we hope to arouse in everyone a new way of thinking about Taiwan, as a member of the world community, participating with all nations in the building up of sustainable development.

 
 
In 2005 Huang Wu Xiong wrote an article ‘I Dream of a Thousand Mile Trail’ in which he wrote: ‘During the last half century, Taiwan has sacrificed too much of its natural environment and inner values for economic progress. Through the Thousand Mile Trail’s project, let us go beyond the ideology of growth, pondering again our values so as to change our lifestyle.’”

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