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Taiwan architect transforms rural houses

By HU MEIDONG and YE ZIZHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-03


A rural theater Tsai's team created in Xiaojiao village, Sanming, Fujian province. [Photo/China Daily]

Tsai Hsing-chueh likes to live in the countryside, whether on the mainland or in Taiwan.

An engineer and designer, he renovates old rural buildings and makes them more interesting places to live in and visit.

Tsai said that his ambition is to make the countryside a more attractive place and encourage second-generation villagers to return there to live.

"This is phase one of our renovation project here in Xiaojiao village. We've planned a cultural exchange center for pottery and porcelain, as well as a camp for stargazing," he said, introducing one of his projects in Fujian province.

Tsai was born in 1964 in New Taipei City. Before coming to the mainland in 2014, he worked in construction in Taiwan for nearly two decades.

"The mainland is vast, and every village has its unique appearance and features," Tsai said.

"The market generated by rural vitalization is huge, and thanks to the good policies here, our team's business has developed well."

Before settling down in Fujian in 2019, Tsai worked on projects in Shanghai and provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

He spends time familiarizing himself with the local setting, getting to understand the needs of the locals and exploring available resources, before proposing and implementing his plan.

"Our working concept is to plan and design, then follow the project through to operation," he said.

For Tsai, ancient architecture is the flag-bearer of local culture, so its crafting methods and structures should be protected.

"They may have aesthetic limitations, and this can be improved through good design."

Less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Sanming city, the village of Xiaojiao is a designated national forest village and a provincial experiment location for rural vitalization. Tsai has been living in Xiaojiao for three years.

Walk into the village, and you are greeted by fresh air and a gentle breeze, while green views and the sound of streams make it an ideal place to get close to nature.

In front of Tsai's two-story wooden house, pieces of porcelain are spread on a blue cloth. They are common discoveries in the village, which has a long history of producing porcelain.

In recent years, the Fujian government has been encouraging Taiwan architects and designers to come to the mainland and take part in the rural vitalization effort, with the aim of promoting mutual exchanges on rural development.

Official data shows that the provincial government invested 50 million yuan ($7.45 million) in 100 projects in 2021, located in cities like Fuzhou, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Putian, Nanping and Sanming.

Motivated by these new opportunities, more architects like Tsai are putting their talent to use in the province. Since 2014, he has been inviting college students from Taiwan to join him every year.

"There are many students majoring in architecture and the creative industries, but the market is limited," Tsai said. "It is time for Taiwan youth to seek employment and develop on the mainland."

Yang Jie contributed to this story.

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