[Art in Public Place] Touhu Red Fortress


Photo by Howard Huang

Touhu Red Fortress is a participatory public art project, located in TouHu Elementary School, Linkuo District, New Taipei City, Taiwan. This series of artworks commemorate Touhu Red Fortress and recognize the history and culture of this community’s connection to Linkuo Tableland by using plain brick masonry with locally fired bricks as key materials. This art work is created by a Taiwan-based artist, Howard Huang (黃浩德).

Historically, the Linkuo Tableland consists of infertile acidic red soil with limited agricultural possibilities. In accordance with the natural restriction, early pioneers planted tea trees for their economic value, and later on, established the Linkuo Brick Kiln to conveniently access acidic red soil when bricks were popularly used in building construction. Touhu Red Fortress combines elements from the acidic red tableland, brick kiln and tea plantation, and introduces the history of Linkuo through the creation of sculpted terrain.

RedFortress 2

Photo by Howard Huang

This artwork includes three fortresses in varied sizes. The main piece, the 10 by 9 meters Fortress Plaza, is a sculpted terrain with a 2.2 meter high curved brick wall to create an inward activity center. The curve brick wall is a stratigraphic map of the land. Carved bricks mixed into the brick wall are “my treasures,” created by students and parents of the elementary school, as well as local participants of the art camp. Each carved brick told a story of a family who has lived there for several generations. On the side platform of the 1.2 meter high sculpted terrain is a 50 year-old live tea tree, growing with age and further connecting the future with the past and reminding people of its historical timeline. The Fortress Plaza has multiple functions, as a place for outdoor classes, a playground, and also a waiting area for parents to pick up their kids. In addition to the linear bench covered in southern yellow pine in the activity center, there are several sitting areas along the contour. The arrangement of the artwork piece creates spaces to stimulate dialogue between users, while they walk through the artwork. 

Touhu Red Fortress, located on the front lawn at the main gate of the school, stands as the spiritual stronghold of the school, providing students and teachers a secure and semi-enclosed place to rest and play. In addition, the old name of Linkuo is Xulinkuo, which means “the entrance to the forest”. Given the artwork is surrounded by trees transplanted from the old school, together they hint at the storytelling image of Xulinkuo and connect with the tradition and history of place and people.