The Taoyuan County decided on Tuesday to override a construction company’s decision to demolish the Tao Ton Tang Yu Ming Ti (道東堂玉明邸) house in Taoyuan County’s Yangmei Township (楊梅), reclassifying the building as a “temporary heritage unit” after writers and activists opposed the demolition.
The construction company initially planned to demolish the house today.
If the site is recognized as a full county government-approved heritage site within the year, it would gain government protection, activists said.
Photo: Lee Jung-ping, Taipei Times
The house, with 87 years of history, is a rare construction, mixing Hakka, Southern Min and Western construction techniques. The entire complex is built as a Sanheyuan (三合院), with a main building and seven side houses forming the two “wings” of the complex.
It was sold to a construction company which intended to demolish the complex and build a high-rise building in its place, but news of the pending demolition caused many activists, including writer Chang Tian-wan (張典婉), to call for the building’s preservation.
The county government’s Cultural Assets Review Committee — including the county government’s Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tian Wei (田瑋), National Chengchi University Graduate Institute of Taiwan History’s Tai Pao-tsum (戴寶村), Chinese Culture University Department of Architecture and Urban Design lecturer Sung Jui-hsuan (宋蕊璇), National Taipei University of Arts (NTUA) Graduate Institute of Architecture and Cultural Heritage assistant professor Huang Shih-chuan (黃士娟) and Tamkang University Department of Architecture associate professor Mi Fu-kuo (米復國) — visited the building in person on Tuesday to make a final decision.
After the on-site review, the committee said that the house was intact and merited preservation as part of Taiwanese’s cultural heritage.
Tian said that as the house’s cultural asset value has been confirmed at least initially, the department was announcing the house’s change in status to a “temporary heritage site” in accordance with Article 17 of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保護法).
The article allows the county government to reclassify certain buildings as “temporary heritage sites” for half a year and may extend the reclassification by another six months if needed. The county government must finish inspections and debate on the building within one year.
The department is to meet with the site’s proprietors and the construction company to mediate a solution acceptable to all parties based on protecting cultural assets.
NTUA professor Chern Ban (陳邦畛) said the reclassification of the house is a victory for society as it means the government has officially intervened.
However, Chern said that the government should also find a way for the construction company not to lose its money.
While activists have conveyed their support of the county government’s actions, one of the proprietors, surnamed Cheng (鄭), said that the government was intervening in private business and failed to consult them in the process.
“One day it’s a house, the next it’s a heritage site,” the Cheng family said.
The construction company manager, surnamed Hsiao (蕭), said that he had spent nearly a year negotiating the deal, finally concluding a deal with the price tag of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) for the land and the buildings.
Hsiao said he had already paid the Cheng family NT$70 million of the funds, adding that he had originally planned to build a house on the land.
Hsiao said he was not excluding the option of terminating the contract to buy the house and resorting to legal means in order to recoup his money.
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