Before and After

It was built in 1957 (hardly that long ago), but the chapel at Tainan Theological College is deemed an architectural treasure by the city government early in the 21st Century. Don’t think that means government subsidy for physical upkeep (as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris).  Before I retired from Tainan, the college bursar explained that getting any subsidy for repair required the school to hire city approved architects and planners to write things up. The fees for these would eat up all of the subsidy, and the repairs themselves would be more expensive.  When Typhoon Morakot blew in a window in 2009, repair involved using as much of the old, rotted window frame as possible, and matching the broken bits with new ones specially made. That space in the wall was covered with plywood for months!

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The original plan put a large rose window on the west side of the building. In 1957 the budget only allowed for frosted glass.In the 1970s a pipe organ was installed, blocking any light that came through it anyway. The window, about 8 feet in diameter, would have cost a lot to “colorize”. Funds would have to be raised, and even someone like me could understand that they might be better spent on other things. The bell tower on the east end of the chapel (without a bell) was 4 floors high with windows facing the college quad, but these, too, were of clear or frosted glass.  

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One summer, without asking, and spending the money from my own pocket, I had colored acrylic plastic cut to fill those panes. I drilled little holes in their corners and mounted them to the frames with  little screws and push tacks. The effect was like a beach ball when I turned on a light inside at night. As is said in some songs, “once you get started, it’s hard to stop.” I figured out a way to colorize the rose window on an even tighter budget. This time, though, I asked first, and was given a target of “keep it under NT$X,XXX.”  It was ready by Christmas of 2017. If you go up to the organ loft and look closely, you’ll see that it was done quickly and on the cheap. But I recently found a blog post with a picture that affirmed my work, calling attention to its elegance. I’m pumped!

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David Alexander now resides in Holland, Michigan after 39 years in Taiwan.

3 Replies to “Before and After”

  1. It is best appreciated from a distance. Go close and you see poor craftsmanship. I don’t know if the lights I put inside on a timer even work any more, but when they did, it looked great at night.

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