After the recent demolition of a dilapidated Japanese-era house near National Taiwan Normal University, residents of Gufung Borough (古風) in Taipei gathered together to try and save the roof tiles from the house.
About 200 borough residents turned up to the demolition site on Saturday to form human chains so they could pass the tiles by hand out of the heap of rubble to a temporary storage location 450m away. Of the 1,500 pieces of tile salvaged, only 500 were undamaged.
The borough residents plan to use the tiles to build walls around flower gardens and to form artistic decorations in the park that is planned to replace the house.
Several pieces of tile were identified as being the works of Tsai Chuan-ju (蔡川竹), a master of ceramic art during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Experts said that the culturally valuable tiles were cast from Tsai’s original mould and not from later mass-production moulds.
Borough warden Kung Hsien-chuan (孔憲娟) said the house, which occupied nearly 100 ping (330m2), was built by a sugar company during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, and served as lodgings for out-of-town or overseas company personnel who had to come to the city on business. The house was later used as a military dormitory.
The house was between 70 and 80 years old and made entirely out of wood. The timber used to build the house was from Chamaecyparis formosensis, or Formosan Cypress, a building material that is highly valued in Japan, while the roof tiles were all hand-made in local tile factories during in the Japanese colonial era. Most of the tiles were stamped with the logo of the factory that made them.
Because of the lack of greenery in the area and because the house had been vacant for the past three years, Kung petitioned the Ministry of National Defense, which owns the plot of land where the house stood, to tear it down and build a park.
After talking with borough residents and with the Taipei City Government, the ministry agreed that the land could be used as a park.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer