The NT$1 billion (US$34.4 million) cost of restoring barracks at a Japanese-era military airport in Pingtung County is a major funding challenge, county officials said.
Over the past 10 years, 135 of the 149 airport barracks built by the Japanese in 1920 have been placed under the Cultural Heritage Protection Act (文化資產保存法).
“It’s not only about the artistic value of Japanese architecture — this is also about Taiwan’s aviation history,” former barracks resident Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元) said.
Photo: Lo Sin-chen, Taipei Times
The airport was built to meet the defense needs of the Japanese government, and family barracks for the families of Imperial Japanese Army Air Service officers were built between 1927 and 1937.
The airport and barracks were taken over by the Republic of China Air Force after World War II, with the families of air force and army officers living there in the years that followed.
The county government in 2007 listed 71 buildings from the Shengli (勝利) and Chongren (崇仁) military dependents’ villages as cultural heritage sites, following demands from conservationists.
Last year, 64 additional buildings from Shengli, Chongren, Sianguang (憲光) and Desheng (得勝) villages were also added to the list by the county’s Cultural Affairs Bureau.
The 135 barracks represent the largest collection of Japanese-era living quarters in one spot anywhere in the country, Pingtung Citizen Association secretary-general Chou Jui-yu (周芮宇) said.
The act has been crucial in saving these and other historic buildings throughout the country, as it stipulates that buildings older than 50 years on public land must undergo evaluation by authorized officials, she said.
The county needs to attract more talented officials to effectively manage the properties, she said, adding that thieves had already broken into the barracks at Desheng, stealing pillars and door frames.
Work on the first 71 buildings to be listed progressed at a snail’s pace due to lack of funding, but began to pick up last year after receiving provisions from the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Project, she said.
The county plans to complete restoration work on the first 20 buildings this year at an estimated cost of NT$100 million, with the remainder expected to be finished by next year through an injection of NT$485 million from the Ministry of Culture, she said.
The bureau said it is not planning to restore all of the 64 most recently listed buildings, citing extensive damage to some of them.
Those that are to remain unrestored would be protected in their current state, which would cost the county significantly less money, the bureau said, adding that it would apply to the central government for financial assistance in protecting the buildings.
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