Anniversary for Lushan Earthquake: Epitome of One Kindergarten’s Reestablishment

Time: 2014-04-20 Source: 21Jingji

Taiping Town thrived because of coal mines in the early years. With the closure of small coal mines in Sichuan Province, most of the young and middle-aged people in the town went out to work. Two private kindergartens have become the main destination for left-behind children in the town.

Of the two, Miaomiao Kindergarten was severely damaged in the Sichuan Lushan Earthquake on April 20, 2013. The kindergarten’s director, Zhu Nan, a woman who is about 40 years old, told the journalist of 21Jingji that it was lucky that the earthquake struck in the early morning and that the children hadn’t come to the kindergarten, so there were no casualties.

After the earthquake, Zhu Nan tried to rebuild the kindergarten, but encountered many difficulties, especially the land, and then the design, but a year later, the kindergarten has been erected again.

On March 31, 2014, when Zhu Nan first met her kindergarten designer, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, she was so excited that she almost cried. Shigeru Ban and his Chinese volunteers designed this unique building. From the word of mouth of these volunteers, Zhu Nan learned the story of Shigeru Ban.

On March 31, 2014, Shigeru Ban just won the 2014 Pritzker Prize, the highest award in architecture. This time he came specially to check and accept his own work. Even in the remote Taiping Town in Lushan County, China, his arrival has attracted many construction professionals.

One year after the earthquake, one third of the damaged houses in Taiping Town still remained. Some residents live in white board houses, while the new brown Miaomiao Kindergarten stands amid them, being especially conspicuous.

The period from April 20, 2013 when it was severely damaged in the earthquake, to February 15, 2014 when the new kindergarten was brought into service was almost a epitome of the reconstruction a year after the Lushan disaster, said Zhu Nan.

Reconstruction of Miaomiao Kindergarten

After May 12th Wenchuan Earthquake and April 20th Lushan Earthquake, the three-storey brick-and-concrete structured Miaomiao Kindergarten closed down because of serious damage, leaving 60 young children in Taiping Town wandering in this earthquake-stricken area full of dangerous buildings all day long.

Zhu Nan originally wanted to rebuild the kindergarten in situ, but before the Taiping Town reconstruction plan came out, she did not get permission from the local government for this idea. Besides, for private kindergartens, the local finances did not have any support plan. When Zhu Nan was helpless, the domestic NGO Maitian Education Foundation came to Zhu Nan and told her that the master architect Shigeru Ban was willing to design a brand new kindergarten for her, and the fund was provided by Maitian Education Foundation.

Taiping Town government also supported the plan and gave Miaomiao Kindergarten a piece of land in Yang Temple, about a kilometer away from Taiping Town, next to the temporary shelters for victims of the earthquake.

After the earthquake, the Yang Temple was designated to be a temporary resettlement area by the local government—-a long downhill from Taiping Town and a stone bridge without guardrails. The road has not been hardened, and if it rains, the mud would submerge the ankle of pedestrians.

There are about 40 households in the Yang Temple Settlement. The kindergarten will provide preschool education for their children. There are still dozens of preschool children in nearby Yangjiawan, who may also go to Miaomiao Kindergarten.

Shigeru Ban, 57, is world-renowned for his talent to use paper tubes to build houses. This is not the first time Shigeru Ban has built an emergency facility in Sichuan’s quake-hit areas. After May 12th Earthquake in 2008, Shigeru Ban built two classrooms in Hualin Primary School in Chengdu, which have been in use ever since.

Although it is work of a master architect, no publicity or ceremonies were held when the project began on October 21, 2013. Volunteers simply followed an old rule and looked up to Chinese almanac, knowing that excavation was advisable on that day.

During the construction, the workers found that the paper tube frame was not suitable for Miaomiao Kindergarten. Therefore, Miaomiao Kindergarten’s paper tubes are connected through wood joints and roof load-bearing structure is fixed on the load-bearing columns through shelf angle steel. This structure is specially designed by Shigeru Ban according to the resources available in China. Shigeru Ban did not pay much attention to the design and building materials because the building is only used in the transitional period. For example, plastic doors and windows are used for Miaomiao Kindergarten walls.

In fact, although the cost of paper tube buildings is more expensive than that of ordinary transition board buildings, the paper tube building is a mature post-disaster emergency building system in the global application of Shigeru Ban. Upon completion of the transition period, the paper tubes can be easily removed and can be moved to other locations for reassembly or conversion to other facilities for reuse.

Chinese architect Zou Jinguang is one of the volunteers of Miaomiao Kindergarten. He said that the Paper Tube Church, built by Shigeru Ban after the 1994 Osaka-Kobe earthquake, was integrally moved to Taomi, Taiwan, in 2005 and is still in use. The paper tube schoolhouse built by Shigeru Ban in Chengdu Hualin Primary School in 2008 has been in use for 6 years and can be used for at least another 3-5 years under current maintenance.

The Taiping Town settlement is on a river beach, so the foundation construction is very professional. According to Japan’s highest earthquake-resistant grade, 12 mm reinforcements are designed and closely paved with 10 cm spacing. Zou Jinguang said that this should be the most earthquake-resistant foundation in Ya’an single-storey buildings.

Zou Jinguang said: “Involving local residents and volunteers in the construction process is an important consideration for Shigeru Ban in the construction of post-disaster transitional buildings. The Chinese and Japanese young people, as volunteers, participated in public welfare projects. Through the work and life together, they communicated and discussed to understand each other’s ideas, and enhanced friendship between the two sides. ” He told the journalist of 21Jingji that during the construction of Chengdu Hualin Primary School in 2008, Chinese and Japanese students disliked each other at the beginning and cried bitterly when they parted. “This is a very good example. ”

Participatory reconstruction

Reconstruction process is a rural governance experiment. The experiment of villagers’ autonomy in Lushan County has gone through three stages.

The first stage occurred in the post-earthquake material distribution phase. In the initial stage after the earthquake, relief supplies were transported to Lushan continuously. In the process of material distribution, due to the shortage of manpower, poor road communications, limited relief supplies and other reasons, there was a certain disorder, and some cadres of villages and groups even only helped their own relatives and friends, which caused the villagers to distrust these cadres.

How to evade the contradictions in the process of material distribution and how to distribute the limited materials to the disaster victims transparently has become a difficult problem for Lushan County government. After careful study, it was decided that the affected people in the settlements should recommend their own representatives with high prestige and credibility to form a material distribution monitoring team to participate in the receipt, custody and distribution of disaster relief materials throughout the process. The representatives shall propose a rationalized material distribution plan for decision-making by the “Party Branch Committee and Villagers’ Self-governing Committee” according to the actual conditions of the settlement site. The distribution results made the public more convinced and effectively safeguarded the stability of social order in the settlements.

However, after entering the transitional resettlement stage, some problems have been exposed in the organizational mode of participation in the specific affairs of the “Party Branch Committee and Villagers’ Self-governing Committee” by the representatives: First, the obligations performed by the representatives is too single; second, the recognition of representative identity is gradually decreasing; third, the mobility of the representatives is high and their performance of their duties is unstable; fourth, the participation of the representatives is limited so that the masses’ wishes cannot be fully expressed.

Therefore, the Lushan County Government set the pilot program in Yuxi Village, Baosheng Township and established a Villagers’ Council. The Villagers’ Council was set up based on villages and authorized by villager representatives. The Villagers’ Council exercises the right to deliberate on village-level autonomous affairs within the scope of authority and discusses and on daily village-level affairs. The scope of discussion includes the identification of people in need, the mediation of contradictions, the identification of house damage, the ideas on industrial reconstruction and so on. Compared with the participation of the mass representatives in the affairs of the “Party Branch Committee and Villagers’ Self-governing Committee”, the Villagers’ Council’s charter is more standardized, the scope of deliberations is broader, the staff is more permanent and more receptive for the public.

Soon, the village organized all villagers to elect 13 representatives, and Lushan County’s first new “Self-built Committee” came into being. ” From the choice of household type to quality supervision and then to the management of funds, it’s up to the owners’ discussion and decision, which increased the mobility of people, so the construction of the settlements was started very quickly. ” the deputy director Qi Xujun of Liming Village “Self-built Committee” said.

At present, Lushan County has set up 40 Self-building Committees for the reconstruction of rural housing. As the new “housekeeper” of post-disaster reconstruction, the “Self-built Committee” usually includes a quality supervision team and a fund management team, the members of which are elected by the villagers themselves, being mainly skilled craftsmen and high-prestige villagers in the village. The county has 40 Self-built Committees with 260 members.

Financing gap needs to be filled

Looked at from Miaomiao Kindergarten to Taiping Town, the TaipingTown Middle School which was seriously damaged and used as the airport temporarily by the military has been renovated now. However, whether the rebuilt buildings can withstand the earthquake again is an important issue concerned with by the local government.

He Jian, director of Sichuan Provincial Department of House and Urban-Rural Construction, told the journalist of 21Jingji that the reconstruction of rural houses is the top priority in the post-earthquake reconstruction of the Lushan earthquake area. He Jian said that in many countries in the world, urban and rural housing is standard, but China’s rural self-built housing is different, that farmers build their own houses under no supervision, and there are often big problems. The most collapsed houses in May 12th Wenchuan Earthquake were rural self-built houses. The same situation occurred in April 20th Lushan Earthquake.

After April 20th Lushan Earthquake, although Sichuan Province issued management measures for self-built houses in Lushan Area, He Jian thinks: in order to eliminate dual structure thoroughly, it is necessary to include rural self-built houses in management, which requires national legislation.

However, in the future, the huge financing gap in reconstruction will not be effectively addressed. In National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference(NPC and CPPCC) this year, Zhong Mian, the vice-governor of Sichuan Province said that there was still a financing gap of about 36% for reconstruction in Lushan Earthquake area and nearly RMB 30 billion needed to be raised through multiple channels.

Zhong Mian said that the main reason is that the central government controls local financing platforms and government liabilities more strictly, and meanwhile, in face of complicated economic situation, the effect of market-oriented investment is not significant, which causes big difficulty in financing.

The journalist of 21Jingji learned that the construction fund gap has not been filled effectively although Sichuan Provincial Government has attracted many kinds of investment, and the economic benefits of industrial restructuring are not obvious.

But Zhu Nan is still confident about Lushan’s future, and she is now using the new kindergarten designed by Shigeru Ban. She said that more parents want to send their young children here because of Shigeru Ban. Following Shigeru Ban’s instruction, Zhu Nan brushes paint on paper tubes once a year. Shigeru Ban said that Miaomiao Kindergarten can become a “permanent” building if it is properly maintained.