Taiwan’s Miniwiz promotes recycled waste for building materials

You probably have never heard of Arthur Huang, but maybe you have heard of his creation EcoArk, the main exhibition hall at the Taipei International Flora Exposition. EcoArk, a nine-story green structure built using 1.5 Polli-Brick was a resounding hit upon its unveiling and has since earned many top international prizes in the green building arena. Huang and the company he founded, Miniwiz, are now internationally known to be on the forefront of creating stellar installations made from recycled materials.

Given his reputation, his projects are now closely followed by the international press and designers. EcoArk’s creation was featured in an hour-long documentary by National Geographic. Last year, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg awarded him the coveted New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Venture Fellow and this year, his Feather Pavilion won the 2013 International Design Excellence Awards® (IDEA).

In an area where environmentally friendly buildings can be tagged onto a building simply using solar panels or built using energy efficient green materials, Huang goes much further. He is a purist and insists on using materials made of 100 percent waste. Case in point is the Nike Flyknit Collective, the Feather Pavilion was designed and constructed using 100% recycled materials. By using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, Huang developed a material with similar strength, firmness and flexibility.

Born in Taiwan, Huang left to study in the United States at 11. Back then, he was the stereotypical Asian nerd, with overly large glasses dominating his face and high water pants. His gentle geekiness did not make him very popular. Although scholastically strong, he was physically lacking. Cognizant of his image, he shed his glasses and started exercising daily.

At 18, he entered Cornell University to study architecture and became drawn to environmental protection. After obtaining a Masters of architecture degree from Harvard University, he launched his Miniwiz business in New York City.

Upon returning to Taiwan, Miniwiz built a cooperative relationship with Nike. In building the Feather Pavilion, he used Polli-Bricks and yarn extracted from PET bottles that Nike also used in its closely woven sneakers. This public space would win the distinguished Gold prize from the Industrial Designers Society of America this year, and now permanently displayed in Shanghai.

Today, Miniwiz has an annual business of NT$300 million (US$10 million), of which foreign customers account for over 50 percent. Taiwanese customers are still not comfortable with the higher expense tagged onto building materials from recycled wastes, so Miniwiz is more popular outside of Taiwan.

Roan Ching-yueh, a Taiwanese architect and writer, told Commonwealth that Huang has challenged the current frame of the world. He continues to break the stereotypes imposed upon him in by race, culture and industry. “He has a vision. If Taiwan can’t take advantage of his vision, I would feel sorry for Taiwan,” Roan said.

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