Located in northeastern Changhua County, Qiaotou Community sits among the foothills of Mt. Bagua on land composed of thick layers of loam and clay. Since 1909, the local pottery industry has used these resources to produce red bricks and both red and black tiles. At its peak, the industry comprised some two dozen kilns supplying tiles and bricks not only across Taiwan but also for export – each month some 100 million pieces were made, putting the area at the forefront of Taiwan’s brick production.
But the changing industrial environment brought demand for reliable, durable, and quickly-made reinforced concrete that overtook brick, and production began to decline. However, local residents still have a strong emotional attachment to the industry thanks to its deep roots in the area, and so they have actively worked to pass down the techniques and its contributions to architecture by promoting the culture and preserving historic sites.
In 1999, local kiln Shunda Pottery made the shift from industrial to cultural output and began developing artistically molded bricks and revitalizing the near-lost art of brick sculpturing. Local residents have since worked with the kiln to integrate brick sculpture into their daily lives, tying the local culture and history more closely together and turning Qiaotou into a village of brick art.
Another aspect of this effort has been the local community’s determination in refining the techniques of brick sculpture and working together to tell stories through the local landscape, which adds a unique flavor to the village’s lanes and alleys. Local residents now give their memories physical form, sculpting local tales and attaching fired pieces to walls to create public installation art.
On the walls of No. 123 (Zhangyuan Rd. Section 2) hang modeled pots and bowls presenting a tale of an old noodles stand from the 1950s. At No. 366 along the same section, the theme is the nature of Qiaotou. On the walls are models of jasmine flowers and fluttering butterflies that transform a once ordinary red brick wall into a vibrant and lively scene. By bringing to life the community’s history in unique brick sculptures, visitors to Qiaotou are enticed to linger longer and photograph their own red brick memories, too.
While practical demand has gradually faded, Qiaotou Community has integrated bricks with daily life with different methods, materials, and modern cultural symbols, such as making small brick ornaments, door plates, and planters. Through this, they have revitalized a traditional industry and secured their reputation as a modern village of brick art.
With the foundations all laid, the residents of Qiaotou now await new visitors and the opportunities for the souvenir business that will come with them. Once employment opportunities grow, they hope to attract back some of their prodigal sons and daughters and build an industry that might even go international – by attracting visitors from abroad and maybe even exporting their art – and generate new economic resources for the community.