Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Story of Paper Dome

The 921 earthquake was not the only disaster that influenced Taomi community life. 6 years earlier, in January 1995 Japan suffered from the Great Hanshin earthquake. 60% of all buildings were destroyed in Kobi, the epicentre of the disaster, including the Takatori Catholic church. However, strangely a statue of Jesus remained unharmed. People understood this fact as a miracle and they decided to rebuild the church as soon as possible. An internationally known Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (one of his most famous works for example is a museum of Modern Art in Metz, France) was invited to build a temporary church for survivers.

Shigeru Ban is famous for his passion for using paper material in his projects. Indeed paper although seemingly soft and non-effective for building, can actually be strong and trustful if used in the right way. Moreover it is cheap, light and recyclable. Shegeru Ban is also known for his humanistic beliefs and social orientation. He built shelters for refuges in Africa and South America. There he noticed that cheap plastic shelters were too cold for people and it was more appropriate to use paper shelters.

Shigeru Ban created an ellipse-shape construction built from 58 cardboard tubes. 160 volunteers helped to build it and it took only five weeks to finish the project. The temporary church was nicknamed “Paper Dome”. Paper Dome became not only the new religious centre but a place of mutual help and support. It played the role of a community meeting place connecting Kobi residents.

But after 10 years it became apparent that the building was too small and that it had to be replaced by a new permanent church. Paper Dome was supposed to be destroyed. Luckily the president of New Home Foundation visited Kobi. He knew that the Paper Dome’s mission in Kobi was over and he suggested donating the Paper Dome to the Taomi community as a symbol of friendship between Japan and Taiwan. It should be noted that Japan and Taiwan, two countries which both suffer from earthquakes a lot, used to help each other and send their volunteers whenever a disaster happened The Paper Dome that was built after Great Hanshin earthquake had to continue its mission in Taomi, the place that was heavily damaged by the 921 earthquake in Taiwan.

On the 29th of May 2005 the last service was held in thePaper Dome in Kobi and then the building was sent to Taiwan. After three years of formalities Taomi became the new home for Paper Dome. On 25th of May, 2008 over 1000 people participated in lifting cardboard tubes and witnessed the rebirth of the Dome.

Eventually the Paper Dome was opened for visitors on the next day after nine years 921 earthquake anniversary. On the 21st of September 2008 the delegates of two religious communities, Christianity and Daoism, got together to bless the land. Since this day the Paper Dome in Taomi is not only a tourist attraction but also a platform to exchange earthquake reconstruction experience and to educate people. Exhibitions of local artists, concerts and other activities are held here.


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