“If doctors can treat patients pro-bono, of course architects can build houses for free,” said architect Chien Chih-ming (簡志明), who believes that architects should pay attention to disadvantaged areas in the country. “Let’s go build houses for Aboriginal children in the mountains of Nantou County.”
At Chien’s urging, a group of young people with backgrounds in architectural design collected their tools earlier this month and went to the mountains to rebuild classrooms in the community school at a Bunun Aboriginal village with locals. Although the task wasn’t easy and funding it was a problem, the group of young architects said they would continue as long as Aboriginal communities needed it.
Chien came up with the idea of building houses for Aboriginal communities pro bono when a colleague at an elementary school in Hsinyi Township (信義), Nantou County, told him that classrooms at the community school in the village were damaged by a typhoon and that the villagers could not afford to reconstruct them.
After hearing of the school’s problems, Chien gathered 30 students from National Taipei University of Technology, National Chengkung University and National Chiaotung University to start a reconstruction project in the village.
They used computer graphics to design and analyze the structure of traditional bamboo houses and discussed details with local villagers and elementary students.
They also fused together modern architectural technology with traditional Bunun building styles.
The reconstruction project is scheduled to be completed next Monday, with an inauguration ceremony to be held the following day. Chien said that classrooms at the community school would be used for teaching Bunun children traditional handicrafts such as cloth-weaving, bamboo-weaving and wood-carving.
Following Bunun tradition, the classrooms are built with bamboo and covered with a transparent material.
Because Chien found that local elementary students were talented at drawing, he asked the children to paint decorations on the classrooms’ exteriors.
The volunteer architects get up every morning at 6am to work at the construction site, then meet at night to review what went right and what went wrong during the day, as well as learn bamboo-weaving from experienced Bunun elders.
The college students said they were not bothered by sleeping on the ground and eating boxed meals, although they were constantly harassed by mosquitoes at night.
“I’m not interested in making money, I like more challenging jobs,” Chien said. “If doctors can save people with their knowledge in medicine, why can’t we do the same with architecture?”