居住是基本人權家屋重建建築師謝英俊

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2009 / 9月

文‧滕淑芬 圖‧謝英俊建築師事務所提供


重建路迢迢。


距離1999年921百年大震倏忽10年,災區的重建工作漸漸被遺忘,當時政府為管理賑災專戶成立的「921震災重建基金會」,在運作9年、完成清算程序後,已於去(2008)年7月熄燈。

基金會的結案報告洋洋灑灑數十件內容,仍掛在網站上,其中羅列各種安置、重建和補助方案。總結而言,當時被震毀、柔腸寸斷的道路與橋梁大多修復,成績斐然的「新校園運動」,也在政府和民間合作下,改建了近300所的中小學校園景觀。

但令人驚訝的是,全倒的5萬644戶房舍中,僅有70處大樓及社區(5,410戶)更新重建,半倒的5萬3,317戶住宅中,有94棟大樓進行修繕(1萬2,814戶),以及4,336個低收入戶、單親等弱勢家庭和54個社福機構重建等,比例偏低;而位於地質脆弱,每逢颱風來襲就可能發生土石流的山區原住民部落,更只有5處聚落完成遷村。

當台北豪宅一坪單價喊出百萬元高價,都會區中產階級至少得20年不吃不喝才買得起平均售價600萬元以上的30坪公寓時,多數靠打零工、務農維生的弱勢災民,難道永遠只能住在破舊不堪的臨時鐵皮屋中嗎?

幾乎等於「921重建工作」代名詞的建築師謝英俊,堅信「居住是基本人權」,他以一戶(15-20坪)平均20萬至40萬元的造價,在原民部落蓋了三百多戶家屋,儘管獲獎無數,但謝英俊仍然不免感嘆,「在台灣蓋了10年的房子,還比不上在中國四川一年多。我們這麼會蓋房子,都不給我們蓋!」

他的建築理念是太前衛,還是太浪漫?

今年3月,謝英俊進入總統府,獲頒中華民國第10屆傑出建築師「公共服務貢獻獎」,他是這個獎項設立以來少數5位獲此殊榮的建築師。

趁此機會,謝英俊也向馬英九總統建言,部落重建就要靠協力造屋。他估算,興建一戶132平方公尺(約39坪)的平價房,成本只要160萬元(料75萬、工75萬,管理10萬);若採用「以工代賑」的方式,以日薪1,000元僱用當地居民施工,「總計蓋1,000間房子,可以提供3,000人一年的就業機會。」

「協力造屋看似簡單,其實內含生態保育、永續發展、文化保存、社區營造、弱勢族群居住權等豐富意涵。」謝英俊認為,初期可以在桃園三光、苗栗大安、南投瑞岩、屏東好茶等迫切需要遷村的部落啟動,讓聚落居民參與施工。

川震重建,台灣來的建築師

6月,義大利威尼斯雙年展開幕,由北美館策劃的台灣館中,謝英俊也是以「自力造屋」模式參展的4位台灣藝術家之一。

不論獲獎或參展的榮耀,只是謝英俊長年待在資源不足的台灣原民部落與中國農村的小插曲。

去年5月中國四川大震後,行動派的謝英俊就將在台灣「協力造屋」的經驗帶到四川重建區,他計畫以10年時間,為中國農民搭蓋10萬戶鄉村住宅。

大陸媒體曾多次開拔到距離成都北邊數十公里遠的四川茂縣,介紹這位髮線退到後腦杓、頭髮花白、梳著小辮,教農民搭鷹架、釘模板、做木工,和農民一塊喝酒、生活,「帶著理想主義,卻又懂得妥協藝術」的台灣建築師。

11月入冬,四川茂縣楊柳村飄下雪花,冷風如刀;或者今夏農忙時,村民蓋房的工作得暫時停下來時,謝英俊就回到南投日月潭的伊達邵工作室。

他的工作室就在日月潭熱門景點──伊達邵商圈對面小山坡的邵族文化園區裡。來到這個人口不到300人的邵族村落,彷彿是個遺世獨立的桃花源,一整排十幾戶家屋構造整齊,都以輕型鋼為主結構,牆體和屋頂則用一根根竹子或木材綁在一起,竹牆中間加上一層發泡鋁箔,以阻絕熱氣、也防蚊蟲。屋前預留空地,是族人舉行祭典時搭建祖靈屋的廣場,村中還有圖書館、部落教室、議會所等公共空間。

一手科技、一手文化

10年來,當其他援助團隊陸續從第一線撤退時,當年謝英俊第一時間就將竹東的建築事務所搬來此地、成立介於傳統與現代之間的「第三工作室」,如今仍駐守此地,並早已落地生根。

非建築專業的外人乍看和邵族家屋一樣屋型的工作室,不免疑惑,「房子會不會太簡陋?夠不夠堅固?」尤其經過10年居住,竹牆舊了,屋內簷角還掛滿了蜘蛛網,但謝英俊和3位同仁卻住得怡然自得。有時午後山區下了場雨,加上日月潭湖水調節,沒有冷氣的工作室氣溫隨即下降10度,涼爽無比;至於無影無蹤、惱人的小黑蚊,屋內有蜘蛛伺候,屋外則撿拾樹葉、枯枝,燃煙驅趕。

常有機會到各地演講「協力造屋」理念的謝英俊,總遇有聽眾問他:「為什麼願意待在重建區幫弱勢者蓋房子?這和之前的工作有何關聯?」

「從事這些工作就像地震一樣,不可能是生涯規劃的一部分,只是地震讓我有機會把過去口中談論的綠建築、社區參與、生態永續的理念,得以具體實踐,」他說。

攤開謝英俊的作品,就可知道他並不是只會蓋便宜房子的建築師。55歲的謝英俊,台中豐原客家人,淡江大學建築系畢業後,做了8年營造工作,1990年初搭上台灣高科技產業起飛的列車,新竹科學園區內的漢磊科技、華特電子、茂矽科技、竹科生活館等工程款高達數十億元的科技廠房,都出自他的設計。

他一手規劃科技城,一手打造新竹縣文化中心、美濃客家文物館、六堆客家文化園區等,將客家傳統建築的圓樓、合院元素融入現代文化空間,不失現代感,又保有客家文化質樸的特色。

以明年即將完工的屏東六堆客家文化園區來說,他從「為大地與生活打傘」的概念出發,在5,000坪大的戶外空間,設計了7個超大型美濃紙傘的屋頂意象,展現客家人重視「圓滿」的族群特性,象徵南台灣茂密熱帶森林、又有大自然庇蔭的環境,而居民在傘下自由互動,也傳遞出生生不息、開放創造的意涵。

新實驗1:「換工」模式

921地震,讓謝英俊的建築人生起了重大轉折,走向一條與眾不同的路,他毫不猶豫地拋下可以賺大錢的科技城,投入部落家屋興建工作,開始一場文化界人士號稱的──台灣建築界的環境革命。

當時,南投邵族朋友在對外通訊幾乎中斷的情形下向外求援,輾轉找到謝英俊,希望他能幫家園被震垮的族人蓋組合屋,暫時安頓這些住在帳篷裡的災民。

謝英俊立刻和5名設計團隊同仁,帶著睡袋、帳篷、營造工具進駐災變現場。看到到處都是斷垣殘壁、人心惶惶的破碎景象,他決定號召邵族人一起參與家園重建工作。

「重建本身就是一種生產活動,這裡面需要多少勞動力、提供多少就業機會?居民參與後,資源可以保留在社區內,既可以降低對現有營建體系的依賴,減少營建成本,又可以親手打造自己的社區空間,且更合乎重建家園的自力更生精神,」他說。

「銀行是不跟窮人打交道的,」謝英俊說。當時位於斷層帶、土石流危險區等脆弱地質、無法重建的房舍,政府提出多項補助方式,如打7折購置國民住宅、低利貸款利息補貼等,然而,部落窮人是很難拿到貸款的,因此他希望透過「換工」、「易工」的模式,一種類似合作社的互助方式,如此即可用四分之一的市價,把房子蓋起來。

3個月後,中研院、新竹市政府、扶輪社等團體捐助了1,000萬元工程費,族人開會抽籤決定41戶家屋的位置和開工順序後,1999年底開工時,估計有150人(包括不少來來往往的志工)參與,其中60人為邵族族人。

不過,「換工」畢竟是一種反市場的新實驗,以致問題不少,例如有族人質疑「換工」不公平,青壯者拒絕與老弱者或工作不認真的人交換勞動力;開工後也常發生公有工具遺失、被竊的事;原本善意的「共廚共食」制度,也因爭執不休而收場。

新實驗2:輕型鋼建築

看到新制度運作不順,謝英俊並不沮喪,也不干預介入,一切視為平常,一個月後,族人果然協調出大家可接受的工作方法。

令謝英俊更頭痛的是經費問題,在有限補助下,即使壓低建材費,保守估計一棟15坪的房子也要花上幾十萬元。

「我絕對不為他們蓋要花好幾百萬元的鋼筋水泥房,」謝英俊說,鋼筋與混凝土的生產過程都屬高耗能、高污染,日後拆除時又只能變成一堆廢土垃圾,浪費能源莫此為甚,於是他大膽採用當時台灣建築界仍很陌生的輕型鋼。

輕型鋼的建築技術源自美國,已有百年歷史;1995年日本阪神發生芮氏規模7.2的大地震後,開始積極研發這種韌性高、材質輕、容易拼裝拆卸、施工快的新建材,目前也成為日本低層建築(7層樓以下)的主流工法,日本電視節目常介紹的「舊宅大改造」,大都使用輕型鋼為主結構。也因為輕型鋼的鋼鐵用量只有一般鋼筋的四分之一,符合謝英俊環保節能、永續建築的理念。

不過,輕型鋼的專利技術都掌握在日本、美國之手,國外開發的輕型鋼不用焊接手法連結接點,唯恐破壞強度,但卻必須使用一種大型特殊機具才能連結,若進口國外的專利材質與設備,成本太高。

營造實務經驗豐富,又有研究精神的謝英俊,請新竹的鋼鐵工廠在輕型鋼的接點上鑽孔,再鎖上螺絲固定接點,遇有兩支以上輕型鋼連接的地方,再增加斜面支撐、或加入混凝土補強。技術在地化後,成本也比從國外進口降低一半,當時1公斤輕型鋼成本約為台幣7∼8元(現在已漲到22元)。

「工作隊員只要學會使用扳手,將鑽孔處的接點以螺絲栓緊,房子主結構就可以像樂高積木一樣架起來,對原本就習於在都市工地做模板、綁鋼筋的原住民來說,完全不是問題,」謝英俊說。他更號召無業青年、酗酒的族人加入,連小孩都來鎖螺絲、婦女砌竹牆,大家都幫得上忙。

少一點建築,多一點族靈

技術問題難不倒他,但房子卻是「蓋了又拆,邊改邊蓋。」

謝英俊深刻感受到,雖不斷溝通、討論設計圖,甚至族人也看到了縮小版的建築模型,但團隊跟他們的距離仍然很遠。也許因為文化隔閡,也可能族人不擅於語言表達,總是到最後一刻房子蓋到家門口了,屋主才跳出來說,他是長老,要負責某一個祭典,前面要有個跳舞場,只好拆掉重蓋。

「居住只是手段,建立自己的文化歸屬感,重新凝聚部落意識,才是最重要的,」謝英俊說,文化重建更是高難度工作。半年後,家屋陸續落成,族人烤全豬、全羊,熱鬧舉行入厝儀式,也決議恢復中斷14年的播種祭,逐漸尋回文化自信。

謝英俊取得族人信任,帶領他們用簡單的工具,在重建區蓋房子,贏得文化界好評。不過,卻因此打亂「市場行情」,想分食重建大餅的地方包商和既得利益者,無不想盡辦法圍堵。

當「921震災重建基金會」請他參與信義鄉地利、雙龍、潭南部落的家屋重建說明會時,就有人打電話警告他,不要太「囂張」。不要說施工,連工作隊進入部落勘查都會被跟監;也因各方勢力拉扯,以致部落重建的進度非常緩慢。

以距離伊達邵30分鐘車程,地勢更高、更偏遠的信義鄉潭南村來說,重建工作幾乎完全停擺,直到2001年7月桃芝颱風重創台灣中部縣市,潭南對外道路交通完全斷絕,屋漏又逢連夜雨,災情更嚴重,一名部落居民才透過管道,私下拜託謝英俊協助。謝英俊和工作室同仁徒步數小時上山勘查,下山後先請各界協助提供緊急物資,再由部落青年背負物資入山救援。

3個月後,他調集3個部落的十餘人工作隊,幾天內就在社區最高處搭建出一戶重建房的主結構,實際證明他們的效率與實力,各方勢力才逐漸瓦解,工作隊開始在村子立足,陸續興建十幾戶家屋,而這已是災後第3年了。

外人看謝英俊,覺得他帶有一點浪漫,一點理想。謝英俊卻說,重建猶如作戰,必須步步為營。他自認很實事求是,一切行事由現實出發,有多少預算做多少事,目的只為解決實際問題。

2005年,台灣世界展望會全額補助新竹縣五峰鄉泰雅族天湖部落三千多萬元進行遷村重建,謝英俊得以用較寬鬆的預算(共36戶,平均每戶工程費90萬元,設計和監造各5萬元),在基地狹小的山坡地上,蓋出韻味十足、宛如山中度假村的小木屋群。

總計,10年來謝英俊蓋的家屋遍及南投信義鄉、仁愛鄉,台中和平鄉,新竹五峰鄉等部落。三百多戶家屋,屋型有大有小,但原理都一樣:施工簡易、材料環保、外型簡樸,並鼓勵社區居民一起協力造屋。

至於原住民的接受程度高不高?這就涉及個人價值觀。

有人覺得鋼筋水泥、貼磁磚才是房子,未來若有錢還是想換一間;有人則很欣賞這種與大自然融為一體的房子,明亮通風、典雅大方。

建設農村,先蓋一間廁所

儘管住戶評價不一,謝英俊的協力造屋模式,卻吸引德國、芬蘭等國際建築師遠道前來參觀,他也常應邀到國外參展、演講。

2004年,他到香港大學演講,會後一位聽眾向前對他說:「你應該去北京找溫鐵軍教授,你的設計理念和他目前正在進行的項目很契合。」

溫鐵軍是中國人民大學鄉村建設學院院長,中國著名的農業專家;所謂的「項目」,就是他在河北定州成立的「晏陽初鄉村建設學院」,一個號召各地志工和專業人士教育農民、為農村進行各種改革(包括嘗試低成本造屋)的實驗基地。謝英俊有一種他鄉遇故知的感覺,立刻飛去北京,兩人相談甚歡,溫鐵軍建議他到定州看一看,謝英俊又馬不停蹄地到了定州,一看不得了,和當初到南投災區一樣,一腳又踩了下去,開始他在兩岸農村奔波的日子。

學院辦公室主任邱建生知道謝英俊是台灣的建築師,就將一份廁所設計圖遞到他手中說:「來學院參加培訓和參觀的人不少,應該蓋個新廁所了。」

謝英俊答應了,條件是要按照他的方法。中國農村衛生落後,廁所臭氣熏天,而都市使用的抽水式馬桶,耗水量驚人,並不適合水源吃緊的農村,謝英俊決定將他曾在高雄中正公園蓋的實驗性「尿糞分離廁所」移植過來。也就是將蹲式廁所設計成「前尿後糞分離」的兩個出口,前方坑洞蒐集的尿液經稀釋後,立刻可以拿來灌溉菜園;而後面的糞坑只要撒上草木灰、泥土,靜待一段時間乾燥後,就變成極好的堆肥。

他用舊木頭、柳樹苗做成草屋頂,麥秸加上黏土圍成牆,葦席釘成木門,最後這座4間的公共廁所,只花了2,000元人民幣。

地球村實驗

從一間廁所開始,謝英俊利用時間在人力充足的晏陽初鄉村建設學院,進行他的勞動合作社、以及他稱之為「生態屋」的永續建築實驗。

他曾多次到學院所在的河北定州翟城村裡,希望找到準備拆舊房、蓋新房的農民,幫助他們蓋起自己設計的生態房,但很多人聽到他蓋的是火炕土牆的泥巴房,連連搖頭。

謝英俊不以為意:「沒關係,先在學院裡蓋一戶示範房吧。」2005年,他動員暑假來晏陽初學院實習的北京清大、天津大學、上海同濟大學等四十多名建築系學生,蓋了一棟木構造的「地球屋001號」,和兩棟輕型鋼構的「地球屋002號」、「亞齊一號」生態屋。

生態屋的名稱雖像高科技太空船,但160平方公尺的二層樓木構造房,使用的卻是木材、麥秸、火炕、蘆葦板、泥草、石棉瓦等在中國農村就地取材的材料,以及在台灣重建區使用的輕型鋼,連工帶料大約5萬人民幣,一平方公尺的成本還不到人民幣400元。

「亞齊一號」則是2005年4月謝英俊應國內幾個慈善團體的邀請,到南亞海嘯重災區的印尼亞齊省勘查重建情形,回來所蓋的示範房。他為與海為鄰的亞齊居民,設計出防積雨斜屋頂,一樓架高、二樓住人的高腳屋,很有熱帶風情。

「當我看到那些蹲在椰樹下無奈又無所事事的青壯年時,更堅定了我的想法,災後重建決不能把承包商帶進來,協力造屋是最佳選擇。」謝英俊估計,亞齊重建至少需要興建二十多萬棟房子,但重建方式幾乎都是把災民「晾」在一旁,讓他們看著外來的志工團體幫自己蓋屋,而且材料都在國外生產,運輸成本高,重建速度非常慢。

在謝英俊看來,第三世界國家的農民或窮人處境都一樣,中國農民勞碌一生,為的就是一件事──幫兒子蓋房娶媳婦。中國農村什麼都缺,就是不缺勞動力,如果一個村裡幾年內準備建房的有20戶,那麼這20戶人就可以組成一個建房合作社,利用農閒互助建房,只要有勞動意願,任何人都蓋得起房子。

他認為,與其讓農民將一輩子攢下來的血汗錢交給營造公司,不如好好運用中國傳統農村本來就存在的合作社組織,如此蓋房子的成本至少可以省下三分之二。

蓋「地球屋」時,學院鄰近的蘭考村農民合作社也派了人來參與施工,之後就有兩戶農民很喜歡這種白牆亮瓦、看上去很氣派的生態屋,謝英俊幫忙訓練、組織人力,最後約有50人參與蓋房,80%是當地村民。

安得廣廈千萬間

從河北定州為基地,謝英俊的「綠色住宅」一步步推向其他地區,如北京、安徽。

去年5月四川發生前所未見的大災難,估計地震受創面積廣達13萬平方公里,3.6個台灣大,約有300萬戶房屋倒塌。7月時,謝英俊就和國際志工團體一起進入災區展開重建工作。

當他看到受災民眾相互協助搭建臨時住房,並在廢墟瓦礫中尋找還可使用的舊木材和磚頭時,也深深為中國農民自力更生的傳統智慧所感動。9月,他就帶領工作隊在綿竹市九龍鎮新龍村修建房屋。

一年來,他帶領、訓練的8個工作團隊,遍及青川縣沙洲鎮、里坪村,北川羌族自治縣內的楊柳村、禹里鎮,以及茂縣、汶川縣、綿竹市等地,已經完成重建的房子約有500戶。

「要把各個村民組織起來,並不容易,都得透過當地官員協助。」但比較起來,謝英俊說,中國農民比較有集體意識,工作相對容易些;台灣的部落居民仍然很依賴各方資源,不想自己動手,邵族因為有族群生存的危機感,算是成功案例。

「也因中國有9億農民,而專業建築師極少,我們有相當優勢,可以快速動員。」他說,但若以川震需要重建的房子有220萬戶來看,一年蓋500戶的速度還是太慢、太少了,他希望3年內能完成10萬戶房子重建。

從台灣到南亞、到中國,偏遠落後的重建區都能看到謝英俊的影子,有人稱他為「人道主義者」、「慈善愛心人士」、「建築界的史懷哲」,但謝英俊自認只是一名專業建築師,依照自己的理念行事,至於能走多遠、做多少,不在他的掌握中。

「謝英俊的作為挑戰了台灣建築師的角色,過去50年來幾乎無人像他這樣具有社會公義態度,建築師在某種程度裡,是身處在龐大的共犯結構裡,……謝英俊脫離了權力結構,用他單一力量做他自己的東西。協力造屋最後能否成功,或是最後蓋了多少棟房子關鍵不大,重要的是意識上引起迴響。而未來種子也會慢慢萌芽。」

這是2003年出版、紀錄謝英俊在部落重建的著作《屋頂上的石斛蘭》,中生代建築師阮慶岳的評語,多年後看著謝英俊在兩岸的重建成果,依然擲地有聲。

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"Housing Is a Fundamental Human Right"--Hsieh Ying-chun, Rural Architect

Teng Sue-feng /photos courtesy of courtesy of Hsieh Architect & Associates /tr. by Scott Williams

The road to reconstruction is long.


It has been ten years since 1999's Chi Chi earthquake, and public awareness of reconstruction work in the areas hardest hit by the quake is fading. Even the government's 921 Earthquake Relief Foundation, charged with providing disaster relief, disbanded in July 2008 after nine years in operation.

The Foundation posted its final report online, in which it lists dozens of accomplishments, including settlement, reconstruction, and financial assistance for various projects. The government's efforts have yielded legitimate successes. For example, most of the bridges and roads destroyed by the quake have now been repaired or rebuilt. And nearly 300 elementary and middle schools have been reconstructed by the joint public-private New Campus Movement.

But, compared to the extent of the damage, shockingly little rebuilding has actually taken place. 50,644 homes were completely destroyed, but only 5,410 of them have been built and/or renovated (in 70 multi-unit buildings). 53,317 homes were partially destroyed, but only 12,814 of them have been repaired (in 94 multi-unit buildings). A mere 4,336 economically disadvantaged households have received support to either rebuild or relocate. And many NGOs lost the quarters they were operating out of, but only 54 have had them rebuilt. Aboriginal communities located on unstable ground vulnerable to landslides when typhoons strike have been largely overlooked. To date, only five such communities have been relocated.

At a time when luxurious Taipei apartments are selling for as much as NT$1 million per ping (about 33 square feet) and ordinary 30-ping apartments go for NT$6 million-a level which even the most thrifty of the urban middle class struggle to afford-what are the economically disadvantaged victims of the earthquake, most of whom earn their living through casual labor and farm work, to do? Are they to be forever relegated to decrepit steel-paneled temporary housing?

Hsieh Ying-chun, an architect whose name is virtually synonymous with Chi Chi reconstruction, firmly believes that housing is a fundamental human right. Hsieh has built more than 300 hundred 15-20 ping homes in Aboriginal communities at an average cost of NT$200-400,000 each. But Hsieh remains dissatisfied in spite of the numerous accolades he's received. "We've been building homes [for earthquake victims] for more than 10 years in Taiwan, and have built fewer than China has built in just the first year since the Sichuan quake," he laments. "We're really good at building homes, but people won't let us do it!"

Are Hsieh's ideas about architecture too avant-garde, or too romantic?

In March of this year, Hsieh visited the Presidential Office Building to receive a public service medal awarded annually to an outstanding architect. Hsieh is just the fifth architect to receive the award since its creation.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, he advised President Ma Ying-jeou that we need what he calls "construction solidarity" to reconstruct villages. Hsieh estimated that it costs only NT$1.6 million to build a 39-ping home, NT$750,000 for materials, NT$750,000 for labor, and NT$100,000 for project management. If a work-assistance approach were used and locals hired to do the work at NT$1,000 per day, "The construction of 1,000 homes could provide 3,000 locals with work for a year."

A Taiwan architect in Sichuan

When the curtain on this year's Venice Biennale rose in June, Hsieh was among four Taiwanese artists to have his work displayed in the Taiwan Pavilion.

But to Hsieh these kinds of awards and exhibitions are merely interludes in the many years he has spent in resource-poor Taiwanese Aboriginal villages and rural Chinese communities.

In the wake of last May's huge earthquake, the highly mobile Hsieh traveled to Sichuan to put his "construction solidarity" experience to work in the reconstruction zone, assembling plans for the construction of 100,000 rural homes over a 10-year period.

Fascinated by this gray-haired man with a receding hairline and ponytail who was teaching farmers to build scaffoldings, assemble formwork, and do carpentry, members of the mainland media made multiple expeditions to remote Mao County-several dozen kilometers north of Chengdu-to profile him. They portrayed Hsieh as "an idealistic Taiwanese architect" who lived and drank with the locals and "who knew when art needed to take a back seat to practicality."

When winter comes to Yangliu Village in Mao County in November, snow falls, the wind cuts like a knife, and reconstruction comes to a halt. In summer, necessary agricultural work also brings reconstruction to a halt for a time. At these times of year, Hsieh heads back for Taiwan and his studio in Ita Thao, Nantou County.

Ita Thao is one of Sun Moon Lake's most popular scenic destinations. Hsieh's studio sits right in the Thao cultural zone, on a small hill opposite the business district. Stepping into this community of fewer than 300 people feels a bit like stepping into a village that time forgot. There is a tidy single row of a dozen or so homes, all built on lightweight steel frames with walls and roofs made of slats of wood or bamboo bound together. The walls are topped with a layer of reflective aluminum foil to keep out the heat and bugs.

Technology and culture

While other support groups have pulled back from the front lines over the last 10 years, Hsieh, who went to Nantou from Zhudong in the immediate aftermath of the quake, has established a studio, put down roots, and continues to live here.

Hsieh often lectures on his "construction solidarity" concept, and is always asked: "What makes you stay in reconstruction zones helping the disadvantaged build homes? Does it have any connection to your previous work?"

"Taking up this work was as unexpected as the earthquake itself," he says. "It's not the kind of thing you plan for as a part of your career. The quake just gave me the opportunity to put into practice some ideas I'd been talking about, things like green building, community participation in projects, and ecological sustainability."

Looking through Hsieh's portfolio, it's clear that he is more than just a builder of inexpensive housing. A Hakka originally from Fengyuan Township in Taichung, the 55-year-old architect worked in the construction business for eight years after completing his architecture degree at Tamkang University. In early 1990, he transitioned into the booming tech industry, taking on billion-dollar projects in the Hsinchu Science Park that have included a Mosel Vitelic facility and the park's Lifehub Building.

Hsieh has also single-handedly planned a technology village, the Hsinchu County Cultural Center, the Meinong Hakka Cultural Museum of Kaohsiung County, and the Liudai Hakka Cultural Park. By incorporating traditional Hakka architectural elements such as round buildings and courtyards into modern cultural spaces, Hsieh has maintained a sense of modernity while preserving the down-to-earth character of Hakka culture.

For the Liudai park, which is slated to be completed next year, Hsieh started with the notion of raising a protective umbrella over the Earth and all living things. He then covered the 5,000-ping outdoor space with seven huge roofs shaped like Meinong paper umbrellas to reflect the importance of unity in Hakka culture and to represent southern Taiwan's dense tropical forests. Residents can interact freely beneath the umbrellas, suggesting openness and creativity, and symbolizing the continued vitality of the culture.

The Chi Chi earthquake brought Hsieh to a crossroads in his architectural career. He chose the road less traveled, setting aside the big money of his technology village project and devoting himself instead to building homes in rural villages. In so doing, he kicked off what some in the arts and culture community have dubbed the Taiwanese builders' environmental revolution.

Experiment 1: The "labor exchange"

The same earthquake that prompted Hsieh's decision left Nantou's Thao tribe almost entirely cut off from the outside world. In seeking out help, the Thao eventually got in touch with Hsieh, who immediately set out for the disaster zone with five design team members, as well as sleeping bags, tents, and building tools. On seeing the human and material devastation at first hand, Hsieh appealed to the Thao to join him in the effort to rebuild their homes.

"Reconstruction is a productive activity," argues Hsieh. "How much labor does it involve? How many job opportunities does it create? When residents are involved, resources stay in the community, which reduces construction costs and the community's reliance on the current construction system. Residents get to build their communities with their own hands, which is more in keeping with a spirit of self-reliance."

The government provided compensation for homes that had been located in places where the government judged reconstruction impossible-i.e. in fault zones or landslip-prone areas-offering subsidized low-interest loans or government housing for just 70% of its usual selling price. The problem was the poor in the villages couldn't qualify for loans. Hsieh's hope was that by making use of a labor exchange, similar to the mutual support mechanisms of a cooperative, they would be able to build homes for about one-quarter of the market price.

Three months later, the Academia Sinica, the Hsinchu City government, and the Rotary Club donated NT$10 million for construction, and the tribespeople drew lots to determine the location and sequence in which their 41 new homes were to be built. When construction got underway in late 1999, an estimated 150 people, including a large floating pool of volunteers and 60 of the Thao, took part.

Experiment 2:Lightweight steel

Financial assistance was limited, and Hsieh conservatively estimated that a 15-ping home would cost hundreds of thousands of NT dollars to build even if he and his team were able to keep materials expenses down.

"I was absolutely not going to build them the kind of rebar-reinforced cement homes that cost millions each," says Hsieh. He explains that, cost aside, rebar and cement are energy intensive products that generate a great deal of pollution in their manufacture. And when homes of this type are later torn down, they leave behind only a pile of useless rubble. It's an incredible waste of energy. Hsieh instead decided to build with lightweight structural steel, a material with which was still relatively new to Taiwan's architectural community.

The technique originated in the US about a century ago, and Japan began using it heavily following the Richter 7.2 Kobe earthquake of 1995. The Japanese were seeking a new building material that would be tough, lightweight, easily assembled and disassembled, and quick to build with. Now common in Japan for buildings under seven stories, the technique is also frequently used by home renovators on Japanese TV. Since the technique employs only about one-fourth the amount of steel used in concrete-and-rebar buildings of similar size, it also met Hsieh's criteria for energy-saving, sustainable construction.

But the US and Japan held all the patents for light steel frameworks. The methods developed abroad didn't use welds to join the parts for fear of weakening the structures, and therefore required large, specially built machines for assembly. Hsieh recognized that it would have been incredibly expensive to import these patented materials and assembly equipment.

Instead, Hsieh put his background in construction and his experimenter's attitude to work. He asked Hsinchu steel mills to bore holes in the light steel at its connection points, then bolted the pieces together, adding angled braces or a little cement to strengthen spots with two or more joins. By localizing the technology, Hsieh cut his costs to half what they would have been had he imported foreign materials. (At that time, lightweight steel sold for NT$7-8 per kilogram. It has since risen to NT$22/kg.)

"The only thing work groups have to know how to do is use a wrench," says Hsieh. "They tighten up the bolts in the holes at the connection points, and the framing goes up like Lego building blocks."

Community spirit

The technology problem hadn't stopped him, but he ran into problems of a different kind that often forced him to tear down completed houses and rebuild them, or make modifications as he went along.

Hsieh was keenly aware that though he could speak Mandarin with the villagers, had developed design plans for them, and had even shown them scale models of his homes, a gulf still separated him from them. Perhaps it was cultural, or maybe the Thao weren't very good at expressing themselves, but a resident would always emerge from a home just as another was being completed in front of it and explain that he was a village elder in charge of a particular ceremony, that the community needed the space in front of his home to dance, and that the nearly completed home would have to be disassembled and rebuilt elsewhere.

"For them, living spaces were incidental," says Hsieh. "The important thing was building a sense of cultural belonging, reestablishing a communal consciousness." Hsieh says that the cultural reconstruction work was even more challenging than the housing reconstruction work. When he completed his work to the villagers' satisfaction six months later, they roasted whole pigs and sheep for a boisterous moving in ceremony. With their cultural confidence waxing again, they also decided to revive a sowing ceremony that hadn't been held in 14 years.

Having won the tribespeople's trust, Hsieh taught them how to use some basic tools and with them set to work rebuilding other homes in the reconstruction zone, work for which they earned accolades from the cultural community. But they ran into difficulties when their efforts disrupted "the market." Contractors and vested interests that wanted a share of the reconstruction pie soon went to work undermining their efforts.

When the 921 Earthquake Relief Foundation invited Hsieh to take part in meetings with locals on housing reconstruction efforts in the Xinyi Township villages of Dili, Shuanglong, and Tannan, he received a threatening call from someone warning him not to be "too uppity." Work groups were closely watched when simply surveying villages, not to mention when they were actually building homes. With vested interests obstructing their efforts, reconstruction progressed very slowly.

Tannan Village is just a 30-minute drive from Ita Thao, but sits at a higher elevation and in a more remote location. Reconstruction work in the village was still going almost nowhere when Typhoon Toraji battered central Taiwan in July 2001. The typhoon made matters even worse by dropping several days of rain onto leaky homes and destroying all the roads into the village. When a resident succeeded in contacting Hsieh privately to ask for his assistance, Hsieh and a few colleagues spent hours marching up the mountain to inspect the village. Once they came back down, they requested and received emergency aid for the village, which village youths then carried back up into the mountains.

Three months later, he sent out a work team of a dozen or so people from three different villages. They built the framework for a home on the highest ground in the community in just a few days to demonstrate what they could do. As resistance to their efforts faded, the team managed to establish itself in the village and begin work on more than 10 homes. Sadly, it took three years to reach that point.

In 2005, World Vision Taiwan underwrote the NT$30-million-plus cost of moving Tianhu, an Atayal village originally located in Hsinchu County's Wufeng Township. The funding provided Hsieh with a larger-than-usual budget-roughly NT$900,000 per home for construction costs and another NT$50,000 per home for design and oversight costs-and he used it to create a cluster of 36 pretty homes that look like little vacation villas sitting atop the narrow strip of buildable land available at the hilly site.

Over the last decade, Hsieh has built housing in rural Nantou's Xinyi and Renai Townships, in Taichung's Heping Township, and in Hsinchu's Wufeng Township. He's applied the same principles in constructing all of the 300-plus homes, large and small alike: simple construction methods, environmentally friendly materials, plain looks, and construction solidarity.

First, build a toilet

Hsieh's construction solidarity model has spurred discussion in Taiwan, and attracted attention from international architects from as far away as Germany and Finland. This has in turn led to invitations to attend exhibitions and give lectures abroad.

After a one of these talks (at the University of Hong Kong in 2004), an audience member told him that his design concepts were very similar those of Wen Tiejun in Beijing. He then recommended that Hsieh visit Professor Wen.

Wen is dean of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University of China and well known in China as an expert on rural affairs. He is also the founder of the James Yan Rural Reconstruction Institute in Dingzhou, Hebei Province, an organization that carries out experimental reforms (including trying out low-cost wood construction methods) on behalf of rural communities and recruits local volunteers and experts to train rural residents. Suspecting that Wen might be a kindred spirit, Hsieh jetted off to Beijing. The two immediately hit it off, and when Wen suggested that Hsieh visit Dingzhou, Hsieh didn't hesitate. When he arrived, Hsieh learned that Dingzhou was suffering from many of the same problems that had plagued Nantou in the immediate aftermath of the quake. He set to work straightaway, and was soon shuttling between rural communities on both sides of the strait.

Qiu Jiansheng, the institute's office manager, knowing that Hsieh was a Taiwanese architect, proposed that Hsieh design a new bathrooms for him, explaining: "We get so many people visiting the institute to observe and to receive training, we really need to build lots of new toilets."

Hsieh agreed provided that he got to do it on his terms. Rural China's sanitation facilities are rudimentary, and its toilets stink to high heaven. Moreover, the flush toilets common in urban areas waste a phenomenal amount of water, making them unsuitable in water-scarce rural villages. Hsieh therefore decided to take an experimental urine-separating toilet he'd built for Kaohsiung's Zhongzheng Park and transplant it to China.

The toilet, a squat type, has two drains, one in the front for urine and another in the back for feces. The urine collected by the front drain is diluted, then used to irrigate fields. The rear drain drops feces onto plant ash and loose earth. After drying for a period of time, it makes an excellent fertilizer.

The global village experiment

Beginning with the toilet, Hsieh used his time and the institute's ample labor resources to experiment with community workgroups and the sustainable construction of what he called his "eco-home."

He made several trips into the community around the institute looking for residents preparing to replace old structures with new ones, and offering to help them build the eco-homes he had designed. But many of the people he wanted to help were turned off by the mudbrick homes he proposed to build.

Hsieh was unfazed. "No problem," he told them. "We're going to build a model on the institute grounds first." In 2005, he mobilized more than 40 students from several universities' architecture programs who were visiting the institute on their summer breaks, and set them to work building three eco-homes: a wooden house he called Global Home No. 1 and two lightweight steel structures he called Global Home No. 2 and Aceh No. 1.

Though Global Home No. 1's name suggested a high-tech spaceship, the two-story structure, which was 160 square meters in area, was made from materials readily available in a rural Chinese village-wood, wheat straw, mudbrick, reed boards, mud-and-straw, and asbestos tiles-as well as the same lightweight steel Hsieh had used in Taiwan's earthquake reconstruction zone. He ended up constructing the model for just RMB50,000 in labor and materials costs, or less than RMB400 per square meter.

Aceh No. 1 had its origins in a trip Hsieh took to Indonesia's Aceh Province at the invitation of a number of charitable organizations to observe the post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in April 2005. On his return to Taiwan, he designed a "tropical" home for Aceh's coastal dwellers-an elevated home with living quarters on the second floor and a canted roof to keep out the rain.

"Seeing those young people squatting beneath the palm trees with nothing to do left me more convinced than ever that construction solidarity is the best option for disaster reconstruction," says Hsieh. "Contractors should absolutely not be brought in from outside." Hsieh estimated that reconstruction in Aceh would require at least 200,000 new homes. But efforts to that point had left residents on the sidelines watching volunteers from outside do the work. Construction materials were imported from abroad as well, which resulted in expensive transportation costs. As a consequence, reconstruction had progressed very slowly.

When Hsieh was working on his Global Homes at the institute, the nearby village of Lankao assigned some residents to help. When two of these residents became enthralled with the good-looking eco-home, Hsieh helped them gather and train manpower. They ultimately got 50 people involved in the construction, 80% of whom were from the village.

Sheltering multitudes

Hsieh's "green homes" began to spread from his base in Hebei to other areas, including Beijing and Anhui.

Last May's massive earthquake in Sichuan Province affected an estimated 130,000 square kilometers, an area 3.6 times the size of Taiwan, and leveled roughly 3 million homes. Hsieh arrived in the area with international volunteer groups to begin reconstruction in July.

Seeing locals combing the rubble for usable materials and helping one another build temporary shelters, Hsieh found himself deeply moved by their demonstration of the traditional self-reliance of Chinese peasants. In September, he brought a work crew to Xinlong Village, Jiulong Township, Mianzhu City to build homes.

Over the course of a year, he has trained and led eight work crews, building roughly 500 homes as far afield as Liping Village (in Shazhou Township, Qingchuan County); Yangliu Village (in Yuli Township, Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County); and at sites in Mao County, Wenchuan County, and Mianzhu City.

"It's not easy organizing village residents," he says. "You need the help of local officials." But he adds that rural Chinese villagers have more of a collective consciousness than their Taiwanese counterparts, which makes the work progress more rapidly. Taiwanese villagers, on the other hand, tend to be more dependent on resources from a variety of sectors and are less inclined to act. In the case of Taiwan's Thao, he attributes the relative success of his work to the tribe's sense that its survival was in jeopardy.

"The fact that China has 900 million rural residents and very few professional architects put us in a very advantageous position there," says Hsieh. "We were able to mobilize people very quickly." But he adds that building even 500 homes a year is far too slow a pace when you consider the need for some 2.2 million new homes in the reconstruction zone. He now hopes to complete some 100,000 homes over the course of three years.

"Hsieh Ying-chun's actions challenge the role of the architect in Taiwan," writes architect Ruan Qingyue. "Very few people in the last 50 years have shown his kind of tangible concern with social justice. Architects are to an extent part of this huge complicit structure.... Hsieh withdrew from the power structure, used his individual strength to do his own thing. There's only the slightest relationship between whether construction solidarity is ultimately successful and how many buildings are ultimately built. The important thing is that it reverberate in peoples' consciousness. If it does that, the seeds it has planted will slowly come to fruition."

Ruan Qingyue offered the above assessment in his 2003 book documenting Hsieh's village reconstruction work, Orchids on the Roof. A number of years later, Shyu's words continue to ring true with regard to Hsieh's reconstruction work on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

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