News / Vancouver

Roof tiles crumbling at classical gardens in Chinatown

For more than 25 years, everything in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden has been built with materials from China.

The limestone rocks were fished out from the bottom of Lake Tai, the highly durable wooden beams are made of Chinese fir, and the original terracotta roof tiles were fired up in an imperial kiln in the eastern city of Suzhou.

But that may soon change, as the garden's executive director searches for a more sustainable and durable rooftop -- one that can survive Vancouver's rainy season and frequent encounters with local wildlife.

"The most important thing to is that we maintain the integrity of this place," said executive director Kathy Gibler. "But it cannot mean that every single thing is made in China."

The garden's rooftop tiles, which have always come from China, are steadily falling apart, Gibler said.

"We have a whole colony of crows on the rooftops, raccoons walking around up there and all different kinds of birds." The tiles "from China, as wonderful as they are, are very susceptible to freezing and thawing, and what it does is break them to pieces."

Gibler said she has found a company in the U.S. that can replicate the exact look of ancient Chinese terracotta tiles. The tiles are made of a kind of clay that will last longer and be more easily affixed to the roof. "We're trying to find something that will absolutely look the same, but will be longer lasting."

In all, about 60,000 tiles are stacked carefully across the curved rooftops of the garden -- a replica of a Ming Dynasty Chinese scholar's home. Gibler says the garden is hoping to raise a total of $88,000 to help with the roofing project. So far, they've raised $17,000.

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