Framing the Philippines-Taiwan Bayanihan Advantages through the Yuan Ye Architect Awards

by: Arge Louise Joy S.  Esquivel

This article is the fourth and last installment in  a series written about Paglinang: Kaohsiung City Immersion for Navigating and Framing Philippines-Taiwan Bayanihan Advantages. This educational tour, held from 21-27 March 2023, was conducted to deepen the experiential and contextual learning of UP technical staff by immersing them in the practices, culture, and institutions of Kaohsiung City. This activity aimed to strengthen the collaboration between the Philippines and Taiwan, in fulfillment of UNSDG 17: Partnership for the Goals.

Read part one here:

Read part two here:

Read part three here:

Architecture for a resilient community

Urban planning of cities in the past used to be autocratic, with citizens contributing little to none when it comes to design and community planning. Southern Taiwan proved that civil society could initiate a movement to revitalize communities. In 1995, when Kaohsiung City had limited green and open spaces and was still not properly managed, the City Aesthetics Movement was initiated by a group of architects, urban planners, real estate developers, construction companies, and social entrepreneurs through the Yuan Ye Awards. More than an award-giving body, the Yuan Ye Architect Awards has become a movement that has served as the lead driving force for urban aesthetics, resilient environment, high-quality residential buildings and public construction projects, green architecture, livable city movement, community building, and citizen participation and place-making. The UP delegates were fortunate to meet and discuss with the Yuan Ye Architect Awards organizing committee and the awardees on how the same movement can be adapted in the Philippines.

a. Harmonizing indigenous community in a modern society

Taiwanese aborigines are found to be closely related to the Malay peoples of south and southeast Asia. Paiwan aborigines are among the recognized indigenous people by the Taiwanese government. They are highlanders distributed all over Taiwan. The UP delegates, however, were able to visit and interact with the Paiwan people in Pingtung. Due to various factors, aborigines from the uplands have also started to move their settlements downwards, creating a new cultural landscape in the foothill of the western lowlands.

Following the resettlement, preserving customs including the configurations of ancient house structures posed a challenge. Traditional Paiwan family houses are built from slate, wood, bamboo, straw, or mudbrick. The Pingtung County Government, alongside Sandimen Pakedavai Culture and Arts Association, and Shu-Te University renovated a Paiwan family slate house that was passed down from several generations.

During the renovation, the design team followed traditional workmanship and techniques, including materials used in the project. Among the retrofitted areas of the house included solving the water leakage, replacement of termite-infected beams, and improving the lighting condition by integrating skylights to incorporate energy-saving and carbon reduction concepts. The family house of Paiwan nobles has a spacious front yard decorated with plants and benches for shade and gatherings. The design team also placed a 16-meter long stone bench outdoor as a place for family members to gather.

The current owners of the house areis among the elders of the tribe and are well-versed with traditional Paiwan songs, culture, history, and gardening, earning them high respect from the clansmen. After the renovation project, the family house became a venue for sharing their tribal culture to the younger generation and the public through songs and storytelling. Additionally, the renovated slate house garnered several awards, including Yuan Ye and Paris Design Awards, among others.

The tribe elders and officials served traditional food to the UP delegates as they told stories about their culture and current challenges
The UP delegates posed in front of the renovated slate house

b. Revitalizing community through arts

As Taiwan shifts away from agriculture to industrialization, some farmlands were abandoned and underutilized. A group of artists in Pingtung cleared and designed the lot into a gathering place in the community. The artists made use of trash and found objects and repurposed them into useful designs such as tree house, makeshift sleeping quarter and office, open stage, and a sink and bathroom which utilizes rainwater. They also planted traditional medicinal herbs around the vacant lot, which was opened to the community.

The makeshift office in the vacant lot acts as a venue for art workshops facilitated by the founding artists
The group of artists responsible for designing the vacant lot participate in local festivals

c. Landscaping a green economy

Even business owners can design a green community. The surrounding area of a temple in Pingtung was underutilized before a private sector established a restaurant behind the temple. The owner renovated the place by planting their own ingredients and cacao trees along the vicinity. The restaurant also became a venue for workshops and activities targeting the elderly. 

A community map was designed to show the different tourist destinations around the vicinity of the restaurant

d. Designing zero energy buildings

While the government has no control over construction of privately-owned buildings, the public can learn from notable green building designs initiated by private architects. In the case of the Home of the Mango Tree project, the homeowner wanted to build a house while preserving the mango tree. The commissioned architects designed around the nostalgic tree. Since Taiwan is also facing energy shortage, the architects also convinced the homeowner to make use of solar panels to make it a zero-energy building. Since the building had the mango tree as its centerpiece, it provided additional shade to the building. The rooms also featured large windows to promote natural air circulation. The homeowner also foresees to convert the house into a multi-use building which can serve as a venue for various community workshops.

The mango tree became the centerpiece of the building