Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Eco-technology paves the way without concrete

The Taiwan New Landscapes Movement is pioneering standards for public-works projects

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan New Landscapes Movement has tasked itself with making Taiwan a more beautiful country in respect to its architecture and public works.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHALLENGE 2008 NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN

Over the past two years a radical new scheme of architecture and engineering known as the Taiwan New Landscapes Movement (台灣地貌改造運動) has forced local designers and builders to rethink the ways they view public works projects.

As part of the Challenge 2008 National Development Plan, the movement is an amalgamation of environmentally sound construction concepts that require architects and engineers to work alongside nature, as opposed to more traditional methods of construction that involve altering nature. The crux of the movement is based around trust in eco-technology and sustainability, rather than in cement and concrete.

"It's reshaping the way in which government employees think. In the past we looked at development and construction from the viewpoint of the amount of concrete used in each project," said Lin Sheng-fong (林盛豐) Minister without Portfolio, Executive Yuan. "There was initially some resistance to what we were trying to achieve, but most local governments now understand the validity of the process."

Politicians, ecologists and architects hope that the Taiwan New Landscapes Movement will beautify Taiwan's public buildings and spaces and repair many problems caused by decades of environmental neglect and abuse stemming from rapid economic and industrial growth.

"Economically we have to depend on the high-tech industries for our continued development, but it is very important for our future that we realize the need to explore ecologically sound ways in which to go about this," said Hsieh Hwey-lian (謝蕙蓮), of Academia Sinica's Institute of Zoology (中央研究院動物研究所). "We need to begin using our resources wisely and influence the need for sustainability."

Unrestrained land use, negligent land management, slap-dash public works programs, lack of respect for natural resources and a disregard for architectural aesthetics have all resulted in environmental and ecological damage that, if not checked, will have far-reaching effects on Taiwan's future.

"For the past 30 years the idea was to make money," said Gene King (金光裕), architect and Managing Editor of Dialogue (建築雜誌). "Taiwan was a fast food nation in the sense that people wanted it all now. They didn't want to wait and didn't care about aesthetics."

The greatest casualty of this quarter century's economic growth has been the land and, according to Lin, it took the devastating 921 earthquake to make people realize just how much damage fast-lane industrialization and urbanization had caused.

"After the 921 earthquake [Taiwan] was forced for the first time to think about long-term goals rather than concentrating its efforts on cheaper infrastructure projects, construction for construction sake and quick results," said Lin.

As a result of the earthquake, ecologists and scholars pressured the government to focus on a more environmentally friendly outlook instead of only economic and industrial development.

"Nobody noticed the issues or understood the risks to the environment resulting from the earthquake until scholars started to speak out," Hsieh said. "We realized very quickly the need for environmentally friendly solutions to our problems."

Following the induction of the Challenge 2008 National Development Plan in 2002, regional governments began to rethink public works and construction policies. The first county to initiate a policy of the eco-friendly construction methods fostered and promoted by the Taiwan New Landscapes Movement was Ilan County.

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