Sat, Jun 21, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Building on the past

A small, yet historically important part of Taiwan Normal University is currently at the center of heated debate over its plans to modernize

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

All of which is something that Chen and other students find somewhat hard to believe.

"I'm sure if they wanted to move it they could find space somewhere, even somewhere off campus," continued the research student. "Building over and around it might be a simple compromise to leave the building standing. The feel and genuine historical value of it in relation to the surrounding area and its environment will be lost forever, though."

According to a local architect such a move is, while plausible, both a costly and time-consuming process. Each individual piece of the structure has to be tagged and numbered and the slightest damage to one piece could seriously mar the rebuilt structure forever.

When the Taipei Times contacted the university to talk about the plan, we were given access to several reports concerning the new development. Further questions regarding the pros and cons of the matter, however, fell on deaf ears as our messages went


Regardless of the faculty's tight-lipped stance, the great debate moved off campus two weeks ago, when the city government held a public hearing.

Sentiment over the future of the small structure was strong. Over 100 people turned out at City Hall to air their views; a far greater number of people than initially expected.

"There were about 120 people there, which is pretty high, as on average these hearings attract between 20 and 100 people, depending on the issues," Wang said. "It was a very heated debate, with people airing strong opinions about the future of the old building."

According to Wang, both sides of the argument were well represented and it was an evenly balanced debate, leaving him to conclude that the entire affair has put his department is in a catch 22 situation. Whatever the ruling, which is set to take place at the month's end, one side or the other is going to feel that the cultural bureau let them down.

Although feeling somewhat disappointed by such an outcome, as his department doesn't wish to offend anybody, Wang feels the entire affair is sadly indicative of the problems that arise when modernization and development the city clashes with its heritage.

"It is important to keep and maintain our old buildings and the environments in which they stand. They're part of our city's history," he said. "But then, on the other hand, we do need to look to the future. It's a fine line and one that is guaranteed to annoy one side of the argument or the other."

The students opposed to the university's plans are already prepared for the worst; they do have a word or two of warning. Feeling that such plans could spell disaster not only for several other buildings on the campus, but also for other historical buildings throughout Taipei in general.

"If this can happen to one small building, then how many other buildings of historical value will suffer the same fate?" said Chen as she shrugged her shoulders in front of the 80 year-old Wenhui Hall earlier this week.

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