Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 18 News List

A new direction in architecture

While most people seem content to live and work in buildings that vary little from place to place, a group of Taiwanese architechs is designing houses tailored to suit the needs of one of the nation's more environmentally conscious counties


"Another reason there is only one [similar] project is that Ilan House was not profitable for architects," Lin said. The average private house takes an architect a couple of months to design. Designing an `Ilan house' takes over a year and requires far more work, including negotiation with landowners and making models and presentations. Lin's design for Lee's house took 18 months [to complete].

This work is also less profitable. With private villas, for example, architects take five percent of the total construction fee. This may be in the range of NT$200,000 to NT$400,000 in the countryside and several times the amount downtown. Given that its houses took longer to design, Ilan House's offer of county government subsidies of NT$300,000 per building seems meager in comparison.

"Most of the involved architects were around 40, a young age for architects. They agreed strongly with the concept and were willing to give it a try," Lin said.

Next time, the organizer hopes there will be more variety among these buildings. "Apartments are a more common form of housing in Taiwan but so far all the Ilan houses are stand-alone residences. If we had an example of an [apartment], we could make more of an impact on Taiwan's architecture," Wu said, adding that the current economic recession is also to blame for the failure of similar projects to materialize.

The fact that each "Ilan house" was custom-made to satisfy users' specific needs makes an "Ilan apartment" even harder to conceive of. However, Wu believes it could happen if coordinated with the Council for Cultural Affairs' Community Building and Master Planning Project. "It would be easier for residents of the same community to reach a consensus and get enough resources for the housing," Wu said.

Citing Thomas Moore's Utopia, Wu expressed optimism for the future of architecture after the success of Ilan House. "The utopia symbolizes humanity's quest for a better world. Ilan House sent out a message to people living in similar environments. They may well start to think and talk about what kind of buildings they want in that environment and what their common ideals are," Wu said.

An exhibition of drafts and models accompanying the release of A Quiet Landscape Revolution is now on show at National Taipei University of Technology, 1 Chunghsiao E. Rd., Sec. 3, Taipei (台北市忠孝東路三段一號).

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