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Wed, Jan 17, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Activists appeal to save village

PRESERVATION Campaigners hope a former military compound can be saved from demolition if designated as a historic relic, but the city is making no promises

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Activists and city councilors yesterday applied to Taipei City Government to designate Four Four South Village in the Hsinyi District as a historic relic to stop its demolition. The village is Taiwan's first military residential compound.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Conservationists and city councilors yesterday presented Taipei City Government officials an application to designate the Four Four South Village (四四南村) as a historic relic in a bid to stop the demolition of Taiwan's first military residential compound.

While the city's Bureau of Cultural Affairs (文化局) said it would study the possibility, it did not promise the application would halt the destruction of the village.

"We'll start the review process of the Four Four South Village (四四南村) right away," said Chang Yun-cheng (張雲程), secretary-general of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

Currently, over half of the village has been demolished and only some 70 buildings remain. The city government had originally planned to reduce all the buildings in the village to rubble except for four homes.

DPP city councilors Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) and Lee Chien-chang (李建昌), as well as some 10 members of the Alliance to Preserve Four Four South Village as a National Relic (四四南村國家古蹟促進聯盟) presented the cultural affairs office with the request at the site yesterday.

During their visit, members of the alliance also took officials on a tour of what remains of the village and inspected old air raid shelters located there.

While city officials said they were supportive of the efforts of the alliance and city councilors to preserve the village, they were not optimistic about its future.

"Although we agree with their argument that it's important to preserve historical and cultural heritage, it takes scientific and professional study to decide whether it's a historic relic worth saving," said Lu Chun-che (呂俊哲), division director of the cultural affairs bureau.

"That's why we plan to launch a survey of Taipei's military compounds and to study those worth preserving."

The bureau has earmarked NT$820,000 for the project, Lu said. The budget has been approved by the city council and the survey is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Lu, however, would not say whether the move by the alliance and city councilors would halt the village's demolition.

"Starting the review process and halting the destruction project are two separate issues. Besides, it may take months before the actual review takes place," he said, adding that the demolition will not be blocked until the review actually takes place.

The core of the problem, Lu said, does not lie in whether or not to designate the place a national relic.

"The key is the controversial public design contest," he said. "And there's nothing we can do about it."

In March 1999, the city's Urban Development Bureau (都發局) held a public design contest asking the public to submit ideas for the use and development of the area.

While the top three contest winners all favored keeping what remained of the village as a cultural site, the city subsequently decided to make it into a park and to hand over the part of the village that had already been demolished to the nearby Hsinyi Elementary School.

Some of the finalists and evaluation panel judges then launched a series of protests and lobbied against the policy U-turn.

Curtis Smith, a Canadian living in the vicinity who came third in the contest, said that it is important to make the area a historic relic.

"It'll not only be the first relic in the district and the [district's] cultural heart, but will also form a vital landmark for both Chinese and Taiwanese," he said.

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