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Refurbishment of
Tongluo Presbyterian Church


Tongluo Township, Miaoli County, Taiwan

Project Description:

Project Vision – The project intended to introduce Hakka elements to the existing church to reflect and honour the local culture. By engaging the community in the refurbishment process, the project strengthened the bonding of the local community.  The participation of international volunteers also promoted cross-cultural exchange and rural-urban collaboration.

Living Water – The theme “living water” was inspired by the Christianity faith, that “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14), symbolising that the living water of grace and blessing will flow to the Taiwan Hakka area.

Hakka “Tung Flower” – Further elements was added to the “living water” mosaic, such as ceramic plates designed by individual community members and produced at a local kiln assembling the local symbol “Tung flower”. The local “Tung flower” symbol as well as the Christianity symbol of “5 loaves 2 fishes” and the “dove of peace” were craved on the new pedestrian and vehicular metal gates.

Description how the project contributes with humanity:

Honouring the Local Hakka Culture – Although 15% of Taiwan’s population is Hakka people, unlike the Taiwanese indigenous peoples, they are under-represented in the Taiwan mainstream. Away from major cities, the people group mostly resides in the hilly inland area of Taiwan. In a Hakka village town with about 18,000 residents, the refurbishment of Tongluo Presbyterian Church doubles as a placemaking project to honour the local Hakka culture as a symbol of blessing to the community. It also intends attracting people back from the city as a retreat and revisiting the culture.

Participatory Design – The church congregation was heavily involved in the initiation, design, and execution of the project from the beginning. The design framework was drafted for discussion and then fine-tuned. Members of the community designed their own individual ceramic plate at a local kiln, while working with international volunteers to complete the mosaic wall. The participatory design approach not only focused on the design outcome but also on the design process and procedure to ensure full community engagement.

Community Development – The collective design process and execution strengthened the local community bonding. The project empowered the community development by creating new connections, such as with the material suppliers, local kiln and the metal gate fabrication workshop, also introducing the latest CAD technology to the owner.  The new Hakka mosaic wall became an attraction and created curiosity amongst by-passers to open up dialogues. With international volunteers involved in the process, the project also promoted cross-cultural exchange and rural-urban collaboration, empowering, and developing the social capital of the local community.

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