Slate house is a unique building type among the Austronesian-speaking region only distributed in Taiwan. To this day, the techniques are still practiced by the Paiwan and Rukai people, believing that the house possesses vital spirits widely shared in Southeast Asia (Waterson 1990); however, the material knowledge was severely stricken by colonisation and relocation policies alongside natural disasters, and is in constant change.
By integrating anthropology of techniques, the notions of technodiversity and milieu into vernacular architecture studies, this project will partake in and document the complete construction process of a slate house about to be built by the Kadrangian family in Piuma, Pingtung County, paying close attention to how the slabs are cut and laid, and to tools making and using. Besides, this project will make interviews with aged craftsmen, and explore traditional territories where building materials come from following experienced gatherers. Some subsidiary activities include interviews with inhabitants on their dwelling experience, the homeschooling families’ observation as well as discourse on the emerging architectural drawings, in order to comprehend how the indigenous knowledge systems of slate culture are transmitted in everyday life.
The major results will be an ethnographic film with detailed technical records and followed by PI’s PhD thesis in the foreseeable future – as remembrances to later generations (sikipaqenetjan na ku vuvu, Hu 2011) of the local communities, and as reference to the revitalisation of slate houses dedicated to groupings under the returning homeland movement – to become ‘the people inhabiting on the mountain slopes’ (Kacalisian) once again.
Location of Research:
Pingtung County (Taiwu, Wutai, Sandimen, Majia, Laiyi Township), Taiwan (R.O.C)
University College London
Top Banner Image: Zengrur chief house in Kaviangan. Built in 2006 under the funding acquired by Ljavuras Kadrangian from the government. (Photo: Ljavuras Kadrangian)