April 24th, 2015
Courtesy of Ar. Prabal Thapa
Swotha – ‘Traditional Homes’
‘Reviving the old to ignite anew’
One dot at a time
In the midst of the ever condensing urban jungle, vernacular is slowly slipping away while predilection for a newer and modern style of building is rapidly taking over, either for the sake of modernity or simply for their materialistic convenience. One could even assert it as a victory most unlikely for a building to survive all that fuss and stand tall with its striking traditional decorum all intact. The city areas of Kathmandu Valley have many instances of residents leaving their ancestral homes, especially a typical ‘Newari’ residential building, to re-settle to better and sparse locales at the city outskirts while abandoning their houses which subsequently get leased to as many as eight families for entirely pecuniary purposes. Gradually, the house experiences degradation most often due to less care shown by the tenant and such tragedy only expedite the trend of demolishing these houses to yet again build unsafe and encroaching mix matched strips of new building. This only outlines one of the many similar stories of the city life and a dot in a trail of larger urban problem.
Swotha Traditional Homes was built as a precursor to exemplify that not all these Newari settlements have to meet the same fate. Originally constructed at around 1930s, the building was being inhabited by seven families to its brim by the time it reached 2010 and it accommodated a lot of mixed occupation for such an old building. The three storied load bearing structure had experienced a heavy addition of two concrete floors at the top and a RCC sloped roof during 1980’s which only add wound to all those historic eras it had withstood. Four partners (carefully put together by the tourism entrepreneur Mr. Pawan Tuladhar) came together to invite an idea of a sort that would annul the trend of demolishing these types of rented traditional residences and proposing a way for their restoration. One of the ways for a building to survive in the city is through its economic viability. Hence, the project decided on the concept of adapting these buildings as guest houses. As Architect Prabal Thapa emphasizes that ‘Swotha’ is only the first of the many to come under their banner of Traditional Homes.
To retain authenticity
Located right at the heart of Patan Durbar Square area, like any normal residence in the living breathing ‘Newari’ traditional settlement, the building faces a customary alley way and shares a common passage with other buildings along side it keeping up with the series of the street planning that has only served incredible time accumulating history.
The Guest house is a five storied residential building residing seven rooms with a quaint cafe area at the back including a breakfast area, reception and other utility rooms, etc. The top floor has a double height master suite and a terrace section that provides a magnificent view of the entire Patan Durbar Square.
The design of the building demanded a focus towards the subtlety with which the new changes were to be introduced. Hence, it was important to the architect that while the adaptation was acceptable by the building, the architecture was never to be invasive towards its historical feel. Facing only few options with the plumbing line, the biggest intervention and the greatest challenge was mostly experienced with the planning of the seven bathrooms within the existing narrow grids of the building. The bathrooms were made smaller to accommodate comparatively larger bedrooms. With only 580 square feet in area per floor, there were issues with staircase widths and living spaces. He also had to be particularly dexterous with the planning of necessary utility spaces, allocating window openings and living quarters around existing pillars. One of the things about the building that fit their criteria for traditional homes was its floor height. The house had a nicely acquired vertical height for the floors at just under 7 feet which was adequate for a traditional building turned guest house.
The authenticity of the building as a whole was most extensively deliberated during the design of the building. Feeling strongly that the authenticity would not only best suit its architecture but it would also be most sought for more than luxury in tourism led business in such a location, hence the primary concept found a deep root in it. The building could have turned to the luxurious and had all the makings of a luxury get away. However, it was decided early on that it would cater to all the comfort of a guest house but authenticity would be its own luxury. ‘It might not be luxurious but at least you get the taste of the real thing’, explains Architect Prabal Thapa.
The Swotha Traditional homes thrive on exhibiting authenticity in its many forms. One of which is the authenticity of its locality and local lifestyle around it. Despite their initial doubt on whether such a core location would suit the tourists staying the night or two in the building as hotels mostly would provide a buffer from the outside noise and such, the clientele so far, as mentioned by the architect, have been rather inquisitive and the response overwhelmingly positive. They discovered that the environment of living in such close proximity to an active ‘Newari’ neighborhood has made their stay even more exciting and exotic.
The building is in its vernacular ‘Newari’ architectural style with low floor heights, smaller grid size, and exposed brickwork with wall thickness reaching 22” in dimension. The local materials, proportion and size of the windows and the traditional facade have been retained to its original state with proper blend of many traditional items to flavor the interior design. The main building is treated as a guest house while cafe is treated as a separate addition.
Swotha Cafe is an extension to the old building. It was constructed as an entirely separate system using contemporary materials with RCC slab and metal works. Although the cafe’ area embraced a modern touch, the architect made sure that it would not be vacant of the traditional essence. ‘For me the essence of Newari architecture is its originality in material. Traditional Newari buildings use various materials and they use them in their natural state.’ says the architect. Swotha Cafe exhibits its interiors with its bare exposed concrete slabs and metal works. As one can experience the intricate local craftsmanship inside the guest house, the cafe’ likewise serves the similar essence and does not intend to hide any corners.
The roof top was remodeled to accommodate a master suit. A new roof with timber framing was constructed replacing the heavy RCC roof and it was shifted from the east to the west side of the building so that it gave way for a terrace with a better view towards the Patan Durbar square. After the uninviting roof top was taken out, the room height thus formed was retained.
The building also had to comply with certain obligations as it stood at the heart of a monumental site. However, as the facade retained its original design, only height restrictions regarding the roof and some aesthetic guidelines were needed to be considered.
Tourniquet to patch the old
The neighborhood ‘Swotha’ where the guest house is located fortuned a boom in conversion of traditional buildings into a commodity for tourism business right after Swotha Traditional Homes was opened in its area in 2010. Today, there are as many as 100 such guest rooms flourishing in the area. Such conversion projects have already gripped other parts of the valley and needless to mention have set a different path for these unfortunate edifices. People have begun to realize the importance of such valuable properties while the prejudice that they hold towards old buildings and their futility is steadily fading. Moreover, it is refreshingly comforting to know that tourists, mainly from SAARC countries have approached the architect addressing a similar urban problem and have shown much interest in adaptation projects as ‘Swotha Traditional Homes’ for their own countries.
The effort put into the building clearly implores a sense to retain a heritage immutable in authenticity. There are many such buildings that have sustained more than just wear and tear of time and they are in need of an optimal rescue. Swotha has indeed become a reminder to us all what it truly means to restore and revive a residential traditional building.
Written by Shristi Bajracharya
Special thanks to Architect Prabal Thapa
March 26th, 2015
A different perspective
The environment around us is degrading day by day. Certainly there are lots of causes which we are responsible for. So todays’ external world is emphasizing their concern on the choice of construction material governed by ecological consideration. However, we are likely to be surrounded with only concrete houses.
Within the crowd there are some who have a different perception of construction technology: that is Rammed Earth Houses. The first considered Rammed Earth house was Mr. Hemandra Bohra’s residence in Budhanilkantha followed by another residence in Godawari of Mr. Narayan Acharya, who is a beekeeper, organic farmer and builder with a very strong view on sustainability and environmentally friendly building construction; this has resulted in building one of Kathmandu’s most distinctive homes. The property is constructed largely from rammed earth and Bamboo which is locally known as “Mato Ghar” (the building made of clay).
Moving along the busy street from Satdobato to Godawari, leaving various lavish bungalows and concrete apartments, we are led to a typical small village of ancient settlement where we can see a red roofed building with a grace of its own. It is the house with a spot light on environmentally friendly building construction in concept, material and technology, with around 80% of all the materials being recyclable.
Living in earthen homes
Rammed Earth is a technique of building walls using a mixture of selected aggregates, including gravel, silt and clay, into a structural arrangement called form. It is the ancient building technique that has seen a revival in recent years due to an increased interest for sustainable building materials. Traditionally it has been used in many structures around the world, some of them up to seven storeys high. Although most rammed earth buildings are single or two-storey, a five-storey hotel has recently been completed in Australia. The Great Wall of China is also an example of rammed earth. Today the biggest innovations in the technique are in Australia, France and Austria.
In Nepal, we can find rammed earth construction is practiced from the Terai (Plains) regions to the Himalayas. The advantages of rammed earth building are that it’s simple, durable, easy to maintain and environmentally responsible. The only disadvantage is that it is very labour intensive and requires a lot of experience. Consistent workmanship is critical for both the appearance and the strength of Rammed Earth walls. Hence, site work has to be of high quality. As mentioned by Nripal Adhikary (ABARI group) lots of tests were carried out at Mr. Acharya Residence in Godavari before the construction began.
Evolution of Concept
The red PVC sloped roof contrasts with the rammed earthen wall, bamboo and wine bottle veranda in Mr. Acharya’s Residence. In his trip to India, Mr. Acharya experienced compressed block building technology which left an impression that bound him to see different perspectives of construction technology of earth building. So after a period of research and collaboration with Mr. Nripal Adhikary he took up the challenge of using rammed earth construction to explore the new building dynamics. The result was a simple L shape two-story building with a linear arrangement of rooms, which floods all the rooms with light and ventilation. The bamboo colonnade veranda along with projected roof also acts as climate protection.
Technology towards Sustainability and Environment Friendly
“I love to run every morning and collect soil from different places to test every day.” Mr. Acharya says, reflecting his keen interest in the environment. This particular residence adapts the traditional and locally available materials of earth ramming together with layers of soil, sand, stone, dust and occasionally cement, with the addition of bamboo and unused thrown glass bottles, although some machinery equipment used for construction was imported from India.
To construct a wall, first the soil is ground into a fine powder and then filled into the formwork. The 10cm of mixture is then compressed to 5cm. Acharya was careful, as too much clay could shrink and crack the walls. He reinforced the structure with concrete beams and a flexible, lightweight second storey roof truss made of Bamboo structure using Colombian Baharaque to promote better earthquake-resistance.
The main foundation is constructed with stone 35 inches thick and a DPC layer of plastic to prevent damp. The entire tie beam is connected over which an 18 inch wall is constructed. The position of the openings are based on earthquake concept. The upper floor consists of light weight earthen wall with more wood dust, lime and a small amount of soil which is paired with row brick. The wooden pillars are kept 2 ft apart and tied with wood beams and above bamboo tie beams are used to support the roof. Plastic mesh is also embedded into the wall to provide horizontal binding support. The plastering is done with a mud lime surkhi mix which is strengthened using bamboo. The paint is also made from local materials but the main problem seen is the unevenness of surfaces.
Not only is it an environmentally friendly construction, the unique feature of this building is its projected veranda supported by a colonnade system made up of wooden columns and beams using joist hangers to strengthen. Though the roof is made of zinc sheets, bamboo is used internally for support, as well as insulation to avoid the radiated heat that may enter the house during the hot summer days. The use of bamboo, which is lightweight, flexible and durable with seismic resistance, allows some movement during an earthquake thereby reducing the risk of it breaking.
Similarly, the ceiling finish is made with bamboo cut lengthways and then spread out like a sheet. These are also used in the internal doors of the building. The bamboo is product of Adobe and Bamboo Research Institute (ABARI) and are treated using a modified boucherie technique (treatment method using a boron compound and neem solution) which makes the bamboo more durable and resistant towards termite attack and decay. The house is unique for using wooden floors recycled from demolished buildings in Kathmandu with under floor heating and cooling system reducing the necessity of mechanical heating appliances that consume a lot of energy. Although the building can be called environmentally friendly, the use of an under floor heating system, which is a modern technique, is a controversial issue.
Yet another feature of this building is the Reed Bed Water Treatment System, Bio Gas Plant at the backyard including the kitchen and flower garden which are in construction phase. The general planning idea was to create an outdoor kitchen with rammed earth oven that uses the biogas prepared on site. It is estimated that the biogas will provide 80% of the gas required for 6 members of family. The Solar panel installed is generally used to light the outdoor space of the house.
Although all the best methods were put in place to make this a completely environmentally friendly building, the use of imported material: the zinc roof, the costly under floor heating system and also the use of brick and cement mortar slightly undermines the intent.
Rhythmically spaced vertical bamboo shoots create a unique railing creating a powerful image along the pitched roof with traditional expression. The remaining spaces are filled with cut glass bottles as art in the wall of the bathroom with small circular opening to create an artistic expression.
Most people today perceive rammed earth house as old-fashioned and tend to live in the modern concrete buildings. Mr. Acharya’s house stands high as a wonderful example of rammed earth building on Kathmandu Valley. This design of building with traditional materials still continues to fulfill the function of modern life style with equal elegance and grace. These types of buildings also have the advantage of providing a balanced environment to bring out quality space for quality living. Such unique works of architecture preserve our environment and it’s high time that each of us realize our responsibility to understand its essence and work to encourage use of local materials.
January 13th, 2015
Preserving the Iconic
Nepal may be renowned ten folds for its rich cultural heritage with its traditional and historic architecture in their most authentic and primeval forms. Amidst the ever growing contemporaries, these antiquities have stood the test of time and still stir much curiosity and interest in people around the world. However, such a feat was only possible after Nepal was opened to the outside world during the 1960s when a plethora of artists, architects, art lovers, intellectuals, photographers and the likes descended the multi-cultural kingdom to have a chance at the esoteric and unexplored. Hence, it should come as no surprise to remark that Nepal isn’t short of exceptional expatriates who have made a prominent mark on many fields including architecture.
A modern giant of Nepalese architecture
Carl Pruscha, an Austrian architect, is frequently adorned as one of the instrumental figures who brought to light the cultural heritage of Nepal to the world stage. He prepared an inventory of culturally important locales in Nepal that eventually became a base for UNESCO world heritage site. He was extensively involved in Kathmandu’s urban planning during 1970s and had also opened a small architecture studio that produced some of the exemplary buildings in the history of Nepalese modern architecture.
A Restored Gem: Tara Gaon Museum
Among his renowned range of works, is a small complex called Tara Gaon Village located at the heart of Kathmandu, yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city life inside the quite premises of Hyatt Regency Hotel. The complex was originally built as a hostel in 1970 for foreign visitors, researchers, young artists who planned on staying for several weeks or months in the capital. It was once closed down in 1990 and abandoned for many years before being restored as a museum by Saraf Foundation. The museum clutches a similar theme of preserving the invaluable documents that are the contributions of the expatriates to Nepal which now stand as the only mirror to the ancient glory of Nepal’s history.
Tara Gaon exhibits a niche of architecture that is a solitary trademark of architect Carl Pruscha’s design. The building envelope depended on exposed brickwork in its entirety speak eloquently of his endeavour to establish a contemporary architectural idiom reminiscence of the basic fabric of vernacular architecture such as construction and material elements. The arch vaulted brick works that mound the once residential quarters with recurring amalgamation and interplay of basic geometric shapes such as circles, triangles and squares reflect a modernity yet to adorn the cityscapes of the capital but still evocative of traditional Nepalese dwellings. His deliberate intent at boycotting the use of cement plasters at the time when such an aesthetic signified a middle class dwelling was his ovation to the traditional brick culture of the capital. The comprehension of the locale and the abiding culture isn’t lost in this testament of modern architecture, only fittingly expressing a transformation that juxtaposed well with the existing order.
The circular windows that visually frame out of the drum roofed houses planned in such closed quarters playfully intertwining with each other and separated only by the quadrangle spaces; stand out as a paramount of what makes Tara Gaon such an intriguing piece of work. We can tangibly experience the spatial connection of interior and exterior spaces in its vicinity through these unique features. Each of these buildings does not quite share a mutual volume of design but yet they stand as an integral part of a whole that is inseparable. It is essential to comprehend that his designs create strong public spaces outside of the mass as it binds the physicality of these buildings together.
The complex consists of seven buildings with small scale amphitheatre openly accessible around the compound. The landscape is bordered with lush green lawns and trails laid in both brick and stone pavements. There are essentially three galleries inside the village premises viz. Bodhisattva Gallery, Pathibhara Art Gallery, Dorpal Antiques & Apperals. A cafe ‘Flavor’ and Event Hall are the rehabilitation activities added to other recently preserved quarters.
The Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA) building is an independent centre located inside the sprawling premises of Tribhuvan University at Kirtipur, south-west of Kathmandu City. It is another of Carl Pruscha’s break through designs that has graced Kathmandu Valley for three decades.
Steps and stones and bricks
Unflinchingly modern in its bold play of bricks in all its basic geometric forms, it somehow stays true to the cultural assessment of the tradition of the locality even so. Carl Pruscha has taken the inspiration of the design from ‘Mandala’, a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. All the squares and circles are the result of a thoughtful inclination towards the unbending spirituality of the people. However, his intent hinges on moulding these traditional forms into contemporary facets that speak of a league entirely of its own.
The administration block is inhabited within a square form while the circular form seems to have been reserved for the conference hall. His most intriguing part of the design can be seen in the block that stands independent of the other two blocks inside the premise. Mimicking the terrain landscape of the valley, he has given the building a triangular slope form. It parades a sense of unbroken flow of natural terrace to the artificial. There is a heavy interplay of daylights within the building that creates abundance of naturally day lit spaces and consequently throws off beautiful sharp shadows as well. The unique design volume actually governs the intensity of light penetrating the building. Such a playful display of lights compliments the dynamics of the planning and shows off every nook and cranny as an art form. The design definitely plays a two way part. It allows the light to define the spaces and the spaces to define the lights.
As simple as the outer envelope of the building might seem only deepens the meaning of intricacy hidden beneath the facade. In all honesty, the planning is nothing like anything that had ever been attempted in the valley. The straight shoot of steps that lead to the eight consecutive stories lit by clerestory lights above is a fascinating sight to behold. Likewise, the work of stone and brick is well-played in all corners. The building was originally intended as living quarters for the invitees and each quarter has been separated by a centre lining staircase placing them on both sides; all in a single geometric shape of a building.
In the present state, CEDA building survives in an injured form with its flaying wooden door jambs and openings and occasional efflorescence effects on the brickworks. The building exudes a haunting ambience that lingers about while exploring the depths. The abandonment has not yet weakened its strong structural form, blessedly enough; however, it hungers for care and rehabilitation. Obviously, for a building that still speaks volumes when it comes to a design that unique, the need for its preservation speaks a lot more.
While our traditional architecture roar for a conservation and preservation efforts every now and then and which we oblige to perform with emotional surge; we somehow negate the need of preserving some of our modern buildings that are iconic to the Nepalese architecture. Such is the case of CEDA building while Tara Gaon is a perfect paradigm of the rehabilitating effort to preserve these bands of buildings and a statement to the society of architecture in regards to the priority and empathy that needs to be awaken within the people and its government.
Bansri Pandey. Carl Pruscha, SPACES September-October 2010 issue. Kathmandu 2010
January 7th, 2015
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and we trust that 2015 will be busy and fruitful.
We would like to thank you for your support and we will continue to doing everything we can to help you and your businesses.
THD has continued to expand in 2014 and Rajesh Neupane has now become the new administrative manager at THD. His responsibilities apart from the management of our practice will include staff training and development. His previous experience as REVIT specialist and mentor will allow us to increase our offer for BIM and 3d Cad services
Manju Shrestha, our senior architect, will continue in her role as studio manager and be responsible for drawing quality control. Mamata Shakya, Shristi Bajracharya and Sandip Gurung will be undertaking project leader roles to assist Manju Shrestha and to manage client accounts.
Phuntsok Tsering will continue his role as marketing manager & architect, he will be keeping you informed on all the latest offers, current projects and studio updates.
We at THD are always improving and endeavor to continuously provide our clients with the best service possible.
Once again wishing you all a very Happy New Year!
All at THD.
December 12th, 2014
We had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Robert Barnes, a practicing British architect and senior lecturer at The CASS school of Architecture, London. He was in Kathmandu with his students on a two week visit, conducting academic research centered on transitional and informal settlements within the valley. He dropped by at our office to visit his ex-student; Phuntsok Tsering, who is currently working at THD and was kind enough to stay a little while longer to bond with the other staff members as well. His knowledge of Phuntsok working at an outsourcing company raised a well-built curiosity, as it would, which led to a round table discussion encompassing everything to do with off shoring. It was kind of him to share some valuable insights on what keeps outsourcing afloat and how it is received throughout UK. We also had the opportunity to get the scoops on the British academic/live architecture projects that are on-going in and around Kathmandu Metropolitan City and how well it has worked out for them in contrast and in context to their previous venture in India.
Outsourcing and breaking the prejudice
No time was spent when the discussion plunged into a lighter yet anxious subject that we as an outsourcing company yearned to know, concerning the outsourcing industry that has bloomed in Asian countries like ours in connection to the western world.
The architecture practice as we know in general is contextual and grounded towards the codes and regulations governing a particular country/region they are from. Each of these practices is commonly handled by people who are more or less familiar with the entire framework and therefore do not require the need to familiarize themselves with the formalities every so often. Such arrangement means it somehow lessens the concern of encountering mistakes within the drawings or having to deal with too many follow ups. This has been a typical scenario of hiring drafts person in any company and also one of the main reasons why companies abroad feel uncomfortable when it comes to outsourcing. As Robert Barnes acknowledged, people still hold on to this prejudice because they are skeptical about sharing their work offshore where these establishments may not understand their procedures or most importantly lack communication skills.
However, such may not be the case anymore as he later admitted, particularly after he was presented with the array of works done by Town House Design. He was fairly impressed with the extent to which THD had hands on information and the scale of experience related to UK architectural projects. However, he explained that his major concern would be the communication ability, the clarity with which the information need to be transferred and how many takes it would require for the project to be properly understood by the people on the other side of the spectrum. But it so happens, outsourcing isn’t a newbie to the world of architecture as this global trend has been around for quite a long time. THD in particular has proven a success with seven years of experience providing clients overseas with architectural drafting and detailing services backed up with proper communication system and most importantly sound knowledge on the National building codes and regulations of that particular country.
Research, implications and success
THD was pre-informed of the academic research that was going on in the capital by the students of CASS school of architecture (a unit focused on architecture of rapid change and scarce resources) led by Prof. Maurice Mitchell, senior lecturer Robert Barnes and Dr Bo Tang. Hence, our obvious second choice of the talk was to delve a bit more on the activities they have been doing so far and what their research actually entails.
The studio deals with examining the physical and cultural influences on the built environment where resources are scarce and where both culture and technology are in a state of rapid change.
The students have been investigating informal settlements near river fronts in the capital; also known in local tongue as ‘Sukumbasi areas’ where the residents are on high risk of being evicted anytime without prior warning by the government body or private owners who might decide to develop or sell the land to private investors. They are currently focusing around areas like Balaju, Balkhu, Central ghats, Shanti Nagar and Jadibuti. As this is their first visit to Kathmandu Valley, their attempt has been to build connections with the locals, community leaders and social groups that can support the cause of their project and assist them in paving a way for their future visits.
We started by touching on the topic of why they switched to Nepal after having established themselves in India over the last 10 years. One of the reasons, as he explained, had to do with the bureaucracy because of time the project consumed while tackling their involvements as well as interventions.
He talked on the matter of climate study as well and their effects on the thermal design as opposed to the climate they had experienced in India which, as he described was very benign, nonetheless holding its own benefits when it came to designing buildings. The climatic difference here came as a good advantage to them allowing the opportunity for the students to practically inspect the effect of temperature fluctuation in a thermal design basis.
On that differential note, he also pressed on some of the issues that he discovered in Kathmandu City which were more or less similar to that of issues that they as a team had to deal with in many places in India. Pollution was one such common issue that they noticed was prevalent in the river fronts and all about. However, he explained, “it’s a different system here in terms of waste management. We didn’t have waste pickers operating the way that they did in India. It seems to work better in here.” We, as honest spectators of the ongoing embellishments for SAARC fair in the country, thought well to point out that they might have arrived at the best of times with the preparation of SAARC summit at its peaks.
Upon being asked about the success in terms of improving the conditions of the settlements they research on, Mr. Robert Barnes elaborated, on the success of few of their projects in India.
Kachhpura, a small village in Agra was declared the first rural open defecation-free village of India after the successful building of 135 toilets through the combined effort of the students of CASS school of Architecture, CURE (Indian NGO) and most importantly the inhabitants of Kachhpura.
This was followed by yet another achievement with the construction of the first Decentralized Waste water Treatment System (DEWATS) installed in Agra. Such a feat not only improved the hygiene aspects of the area but it had deeper impact on the health and social well-being.
In addition, they have coordinated and managed other live projects which included quarry classrooms in Navi Mumbai and the construction of a new primary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Robert Barnes said in admission that these sorts of projects do not sound very marvelous and aren’t very news-worthy but it actually makes a massive difference to a lot of people. When the fundamental infrastructure such as basic sanitation, water supply, etc. is the bench mark in the development of a city, then we can be rest-assured that the other prominent aspects of architecture will fall into place in due course as they are very much well connected.
Talking furthermore, the discussion arced on the project that is currently operating at the moment along the river banks initiated by the government. The Bagmati River flowing through the valley has been a constant focus of concern because of the intensity of pollution and the growing population of squatter settlements inhabiting its banks. The fact that the river has retreated further back from its embankments has caused a considerable span of land to form in between, now inhabited by informal settlements. To address the issue of reducing the pollution, the government have decided to develop these lands as an accessible transportation commodity to improve the infrastructure of the city and cleanse the river from its daily dump. They are building a motor accessible roadway along the river front carrying the sewer network underneath it that will intercept all other sewage lines with direct connection to the river. Robert Barnes recalled a similar case that can be retraced back to London in 1858 during the time known as The Great Stink. Joseph Bazalgette, a 19th-century civil engineer created a sewer network for central London along the embankment of river Thames. His achievement was instrumental in mitigating the epidemic of cholera and also the start of cleansing of River Thames.
Promise of tomorrow through right connections
The project that they have initiated in Nepal is bound for many sessions, repeating every once a year with the assurance that it will yield fruitful in both academic aspect as well as in improving the conditions of these settlements. Mr. Robert Barnes believe the secret to the success of these project is right connections to the right people as they are constantly looking for volunteers who are willing to help out in their endeavor. On that note, the discussion concluded in a brighter light as THD was delighted to partake in joining hands with the research team, be it in assisting them with guidance required around the city areas of Kathmandu Valley or as it were, even making the right connections.
November 21st, 2014
Nepal has always stood as a sovereign country throughout history, and relished its diversity and tolerance. The architectural practice of this country reflects the same character from the earliest settlement patterns found in caves of Mustang to excavated sites of Lumbini and Handigaun to post-modernist contemporary architecture.Some of the prominent architectural styles prevalent in Nepal include Newari architecture, the styles of Sherpa and Thakalis influenced by Tibetan architecture.
Newari architecture, undoubtedly, represents the timelessness of Nepalese history and architecture. It has definite characteristics in practice that are often guided by religious and socio-cultural norms. Similarly the Brahmins, Kshetris, Gurungs, Magars and Tharus have also developed their own architectural style over the centuries. All these styles have, however, undergone certain changes due to influences from the western world; building technology innovations to meet the demands of present times, introduction of newer and better building materials, etc. In the present context, although influence from modern architecture is evident and migrants of different ethnic backgrounds are ever growing in Kathmandu valley, Newari architecture still bears the cultural richness whilst narrating its historical essence.
Newari Architecture blossomed in the form of temples, palaces and squares during the Malla reign that lasted for 550 years (12th century- 18th century). However, only palaces and temple styles are well documented. As far as residential buildings are concerned, the architectural style was carried onto generations and practiced for centuries. In fact, there seemed less or no necessity to document this style. This belief may have developed to pay respect to the Kings who were considered as reincarnation of Gods and the worship of deity which made the private dwellings of less significance. Until the arrival of modern building materials along with modern building technology, there were only a few interjections to original practice.
It is safe to say that architecture cannot be isolated from history. In fact, history has always played a keen role in architectural practice of any country/place. In case of Nepal and specifically Newari architecture, the first evidence of residential architecture practice could be the introduction of caste system by the then king Jayasthiti Malla. The social reform first occurred with division of people into different castes depending upon their profession. This classification further led to differentiation in the type of their abode. Poorer families resided in 2 storey houses while richer ones resided in 3 or 4 storey houses. The nomenclature of these houses also depended on the adjacent street. The house aligned in a lane was called Galli, house aligned along a street was Galli Bhitar and the house in the center of the city was called Shahar. There was no significant variation in planning and façade of these buildings. Therefore, the old settlement still possess essence of typical layout of these types of houses although many of them have been replaced by newer buildings made of cement and concrete.
Streetscape of Newari Houses in Kathmandu & Lalitpur
Form & Function
The form of Newar houses is basically rectangular in shape, usually 6 metres deep while length depends on size and availability of materials. A number of houses line up in streets having slight variation in their aesthetics. Usually 3 or 4 storey in height, the facade of each house is symmetrical. One of the houses in the façade has a narrow passage in its ground floor which leads to a large courtyard surrounded by other multiple housing units. The building facilitating this passage has same layout as other units in the upper floors. These courtyards are multipurpose spaces that are used for household chores, playgrounds for children, weaving and pottery making, sun-drying grains, etc. The houses are built in this typical fashion to provide security as well as privacy to the occupants.
Plan : Typical layout of Newar dwellings with courtyards
The distinguishing feature of Newar Houses is the vertical planning. Irrespective of the number of storeys (3 or 4) these houses have functional segregation of spaces in each floor. The ground floors typically serve as shop-fronts or workshops. These areas are also used as storage due to dampness that makes it unsuitable for human occupancy. The first floor in 3 storied house and first and second floors in 4 storied houses are used as living spaces or bedrooms. The floor above these spaces houses the family shrine and cooking/eating area.
The internal planning allows division of spaces into different zones. The ground floor is public (shop-fronts and workshops) while first and second floors are private spaces (bedrooms). The living rooms in 3rd or 4th floor connect the residents to street through an intricately carved sanjhyas thus making this space semi-private (living rooms). An interesting feature in these houses, however, are the attic spaces or Buiga that opens through a trap door at the end of stairwell by two heavy wooden planks at floor level. The staircases (Swaané) in Newari house are narrow and steep (angle upto 75 degrees) and made of wood. In case of multiple units aligned around a chowk, these houses have multiple staircases leading to separate units.
The roofs of Newari houses incorporate exemplary technology where tiles are laid one above the other. In fact, since the roofing material is same in all kinds of buildings, they can be identified as residence or temple or palace by the pattern of overhangs and corners, whether simple or ornate. Pitched roofs are usually of purloined construction. Wall plates rest on low sleeper walls and ridge piece rests on row of vertical posts.
Tiki Jhyas, Ga Jhyas and SanJhyas
The location of window openings in Newari house and their craftsmanship assist in nomenclature of these windows. In Newari house, different types of Tiki jhyas, Ga jhyas and Sanjhyas are seen.
Tiki jhyas are windows with latticework. These jhyas/windows usually accentuate the visual appearance of the building. These windows are usually placed in private rooms that restrict the visual permeability to outsiders.
These windows, however, are common elements in all kinds of Newari buildings whether temples, palaces or residences.
Materials & Craftsmanship
The chief building materials are wood, mud (bricks and mortar) and tiles. Bricks may be sundried rough and baked, burnt, smooth surfaces polished before firing. Wood is intricately carved in exposed surfaces. They are also bases for roof support. These materials not only bond with each other but also accentuate the energy requirements of building through passive solar technology.
Since the Newari house is built in load bearing system, a common feature is the central spine wall (Du Anga) which runs parallel to the façade and divides the ground floor interior, Chhidi, into two spaces. The wall is continued to first floor that divides the space into two large rooms for sleeping arrangements or more than two rooms using light partition. On the third or fourth floors, the wall is replaced by columns on either sides to make the living room bigger with better lighting and ventilation. The roof, sometimes, has dormer windows.
In Contemporary Practice
The essence is Newari houses are more eccentric in present practice. Newari style architecture has undergone more variation is last couple of decades than ever in mode of construction, use of building materials and craftsmanship. In fact, the houses that are built to resemble Newari architecture tend to do so only in the façade. Framed structures have replaced load bearing walls, metal shutter and glass panels are used in place of lattice woodwork and ornate windows, metal sections are used instead of wooden rafters and so on. This has resulted to creation of huge interior spaces instead of petite spaces reflecting Newari architecture.
Kathmandu has been a hub of trade and commerce in Nepal for centuries. So is for architecture. With different rulers belonging to different dynasties, Kathmandu has been a host to heterogeneity of architecture practice. Except for a few places in core cities, most of places are the mash-ups of all kinds of styles introduced by people belonging to different cultural backgrounds. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kathmandu alone is a platform that bears almost every architecture style there is, in Nepal and abroad. From Newari architecture of the Malla era to introduction of neo classical style (of Britain) in mid-nineteenth century to the post-modernism modern day, Kathmandu is constantly serving as a base for experiment of architecture. Nonetheless, Newari architecture has retained its essence and expression in temples and dwellings.
Korn, Wolfgang. The Traditional Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley, Kathmandu. 1976 (Reprinted as Volume 11 Series III of Bibliotheca Himalayica 2014)
HMG of Nepal. The Physical Development Plan for the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu. 1969
Maharjan, Pramila. Thesis of Bachelor in Architecture- Newari Museum, Kathmandu Engineering College. Kathmandu. 2010
Pujari, Swati. Renovation for Adaptive Reuse II- Yala Mandala, SPACES Vol 8/Issue 4. Kathmandu. 2012
November 14th, 2014
Dhungedhara – Nepal’s carved stone water spouts
Symbols of culture
Since the dawn of human civilization, humans have invented countless methods to provide themselves with the basic needs one way or another. One of them being the water; also considered the most valuable and the holiest of all. We have explicit examples around the world, of ancient settlements managing the water distribution to fulfill their daily needs. The well-chronicled of these systems in history go back all the way to the Egyptian period. The best recorded ones that we know of is from Roman Empire. Whether it is water supply or water discharge; each region has evolved gradually to build what we now see as well-preserved pillars of modern day water supply system.
Among many things, the imagery of decorative gargoyles spouting water from their mouth have been a common sighting in the world history and can still be seen as remnants in many historical sites. In the ultra-modern world today, they are a popular choice for landscape features, interior decorations, as statuettes; despite their original usage that has waned over the years and if lucky, at times used for their intended purpose. They have stood a stoic watch over so many years that when we speak of gargoyles, we picture Europe. Digging even deeper into the utilitarian water structures, we find Egyptian waterwheels, Roman Aqueducts, the great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro, etc. to name a few. These artifacts clearly show dominance in the world history. They have come to represent a symbol of irrigation system only to be associated with their own place and time. Such is the analogy with Nepal’s carved stone water spout “Dhunge-dhara”.
Water proofing, snakes and toads
Another intriguing fact to notice about these stone water spouts is that even though they are constructed below ground level surrounded by mounting earth that is up to 30 feet in depth, the problem of water leakage from the walls is never evident. In today’s era, while we struggle to keep water from seeping out from our fortified basement walls, our ancestors even then, had already devised a method to keep the leakage problem at bay. The reason behind the entire pit not being swallowed by water that was supposed to ooze out from the walls and turned into a well or a pool is the water proofing system laid at the side and bottom of these conduits. The water proofing system was devised by the application of a layer; almost one foot in thickness, of a lake silt deposit of gray/black soil.
Now one could only imagine the scuffle to keep up with the maintenance of the drainage and the supply system during that time. Although, there is no concrete practices known about the maintenance factor of these conduits, the community did use to celebrate a festival called “sithi nakha” when the entire community cleaned the public and private areas all around out of respect for their culture, deity and religion. According to the local lore, one of the corky practices of maintenance encompassed unclogging the drains and clearing the system by letting live snakes loose inside the drains that slither pass in the pursuit of their prey; most commonly toads.
If we peel off the copious layers of Nepalese history one period at a time, we would come to steadily comprehend the sacred importance of water in every aspect of her socio-cultural norms. Water was sacred; even defining the beliefs of the people, hence, governing the ways of living. Thereby, it is of no surprise that the then prevalent water distribution system would also suffer the same fate.
Two of the main water distribution systems that were in use during the Malla Period2 were wells and Dhunge-dharas. The location addressed to each of them speaks of the prominence supported by the social account rooted behind them. Shallow wells were allocated inside the communal courtyards where it was utilized by the people of same caste that lived around the courtyard. On the other hand, Dhunge-dharas were placed in between two or more communal courtyards. This was because the presence of a water source in a locality was governed by the discriminating tradition that was customary during that time.
In line of the caste system commenced by the 14th Century ruler Jayasthiti Malla, houses aligning these courtyards inhibited people of similar castes and while people of different courtyards lived among each other in harmony, their daily routines and practices were limited to their culture and religious beliefs. The belief that the still water touched by the person of a different caste should never be used by the person of the inferior caste has somehow lived on through generations even to this day, while not in a practical sense. Since the water spouts sprang clean running water, it was considered eligible to be used by all public without any sense of concern. But still some social politics did prevail even within the activity around Dhunge-dharas.
Essentially, two types of Dhunge-dharas were initiated during the Malla Period2.
1) Sarbajanik Dhunge-dhara (Public Water Spout)
2) Rajkiye Dhunge-dhara (Royal Water Spout)
1) Sarbajanik Dhunge-dhara
Sarbajanik Dhunge-dharas were considered predominantly for the general public use and accordingly placed at common reach of the public. These types of water spouts were normally sunken at a certain depth from the ground level. They were not as artistically carved as Royal Water Spouts and exhibited plain carvings. Most of the carvings of these spouts depicted a merger of water animals such as fish, toads, snakes etc. and a certain half terrestrial creature of Hindu mythology called the “Makara”. In common cases these depictions told the story of the dominance of the alpha creature over weaker species. The water spout in a locality was also governed by the discriminating tradition of the people.
2) Rajkiye Dhunge-dhara
Rajkiye or Royal Dhunge-dharas were built for the use only by the royals of that time. The carvings depicted on these water spouts were rich in artistry with intricate and attractive designs. Most often, they had figures of gods and goddesses along with the snakes chiseled in stone. One of the ways to differentiate a royal water spout was the statuettes of snakes that were placed at the head of the spout and at the middle of the sunken pit. In addition, beautiful changing rooms were also built nearby.
Loss of treasure
As the sacredness of water has diminished over the last couple of decades indicated by the mounting pollution of the main water source such as Bagmati, so has the original purpose of these water spouts. Today, we can find the replica of these carved stone water spouts in hotels and restaurants as a landscape accessary but rarely do we spot their original and conserved remnants in the city area. It has only managed to survive as a souvenir of our past; a symbol of our culture like the mere gargoyles of the east. There are only 300 of these water spouts that remain in the Kathmandu Valley as of today and water has stopped running from almost half of them. Before this marvel of technology vanish away as just one of those local myths, we need to think of serious wide scale conservation with local and government participation. Otherwise, the loss of these ancient treasures will one day put a heavy toll on us.
November 14th, 2014
Good news! We have appointed a new Marketing Manager at THD, Phuntsok Tsering Bhutia.
Phuntsok studied architecture in the United Kingdom and worked as an Architectural Assistant at HTA Architects in London for six months before returning to Nepal. Since his return, he has worked as a Research Facilitator for Unit 6, a studio based in The Cass school of Architecture at London Metropolitan University, where he researched transitional and informal settlements within Kathmandu, Nepal.
As our Marketing Manager he will be circulating our newsletter, keeping you informed of our latest offers, current projects and studio updates.
Should you want to contact him before our next letter, to enquire about THD’s current offers, his phone number is + (00) 977 9813517833, or you can reach him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We at THD are always improving and endeavor to continuously provide our clients with the best service possible.
We would like to thank you for the trust you place on us and promise to continue doing everything we can to help you and your businesses.
Phuntsok will be in touch soon and we look forward to working with you again in the future.
All at THD.
May 14th, 2014
Stage 1: Brief and Estimation (BE)
In this stage we get the brief from the client and estimate the time and cost of the projects.
Stage 2: Take off (TO)
We will take the architect’s drawing and stone schedule to calculate the total area and length of stones used in the project.
Stage 3: Shop Drawings (SD)
In stage 3, we will take the architect’s drawing and re-format it to the Stone Client’s CAD standard and layer. If the stone client do not have their own system, THD will use its own. THD will add additional details in the drawing that architects usually do not put e.g. movement joints, thickness of slabs etc. This drawing will then be sent to Stone Client who will submit them to their clients and architects for review and mark ups. We will revise the drawing if needed until we get the “Approved” status
3.1 Survey Drawing (SS)
SS drawings are essential for accurate shop drawings. It will be ideal to get the survey drawing before we start the SD. If we get it after we have done the SD, we will adjust the drawing (if necessary) to fit SD drawings.
3.2 Detail Drawing (DE)
We also produce detail drawings for joinery, skirting, columns etc. These drawings will be useful for fixers on installing stone elements into the rooms.
Stage 4: Cutting Tickets (CS)
This stage will only commence when Stage 3 has been approved. We will produce the cutting tickets for all the stone elements.
Stage 5: Install Drawings (ID)
In this final stage we add setting out dimensions to assist fixers in installing the stones.
February 6th, 2014
Drawing Guide For Stone Drawing
Below is a sample from Drawing Guide for Stone Drawing. For more detail and images, please download it from:
http://thd.com.np/learning-center/useful-information/ –> THD Drawing Guide –> Guide For Stone Drawing
3.0 Drawing Procedure
This section describes the procedure used to produce drawings for Stone companies.
Once a project is confirmed with THD by Stone companies, THD will assign a Project Architect (PA). The PA will then create the necessary folder systems and CAD templates for the project. The PA will also be in contact with the client to understand the project brief.
3.1.01 Drawing Template
Drawing templates for Stone Drawing are already preset in THD drive. The preset file includes dimensions, layers and title blocks.
Most standard layers are preset in the drawing template. For custom layering please refer to 1.7
3.1.03 Drawing Graphics
Please refer to 2.1
Text style in title block is preset in the template. This ensures uniformity throughout all the drawings.
All general text shall be as a minimum 2mm high times the scale of the drawing, uppercase, 0.8 width and Arial font. General text includes; annotation, section tags and dimensions.
Room details e.g. name and area should be 3mm high times the scale of the drawing with 0.9 width, uppercase and Arial font. Text for gird lines should follow the same properties.
MTEXT should be used for all general text.
DTEXT should be used for stone numbering only.
All dimensions style are preset in the template for standard scale i.e. 1:1, 1:5, 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, 1:500. For custom dimension style, the PA must be informed.
3.1.06 Round Off
All dimensions and measurements should be round off to a nearest one decimal place i.e. 154.856mm = 154.9mm
3.1.07 External Reference File (Xref)
An Xref is an ‘external reference’ to another AutoCAD drawing file. Any changes done to the main drawing file will be reflected to other linked drawing files. It also allows multiple architects to work on smaller parts i.e. rooms of the main file.
3.1.08 Origin Point
The drawing template has a preset origin point with its own layer properties. The origin point is at coordinates 0,0,0. This origin should be used as reference point for copying and pasting. DO NOT edit, move, alter, unlock or explode the origin point.
3.1.09 Stone Profile
Drawing of Stone profile should be done with closed polyline. Appropriate layers and hatch style should be followed. Please refer to 2.0.
3.1.10 Title Block
Title block are preset in the drawing template. Custom title block should be done by PA. In certain cases, the client provides us with their own Title block.
3.1.11 Plotting pen style
Standard plotting pen style for stone drawings can be found in THD drive. For custom pen style, PA should be informed. In certain cases, the client provides the plotting pen style.
3.1.12 User Coordinate System (UCS)
The world UCS should always be in line with True North of the Project. Any other UCS created should be as per the elevations of the project.
3.2 Master Drawing Procedure
PA will create the Master Drawing file in .DWG or get it from the client. PA will select a “special” point in the Master drawing to be the origin point. The Master drawing “special” point should then align with drawing template origin point.
The Master Drawing should be placed in its appropriate folder. Any changes needed to be done to the main file should only be done by the PA. The PA will then highlight the changes in revision cloud so files that is linked shows the changes and the architect working on that particular changed area is notified.
The Master Drawing will be used as the reference file and all blocking out plans and area calculation drawing will xref from it
3.2.01 Layer Filter Group
Layering style should follow 1.6. In “Layer Properties Manager” create a new Group filter for the drawing with the name “Drawing”. All layers for (20) should be placed under that filter.
3.3 Area Calculation Drawing
In cases where stone contractors need to bid for project or need to quote an estimate price to a client, then Area calculation Drawing will be done by the PA.
– Architect’s Drawings
– Stone Schedule
If it is too early for stone contractors to produce stone schedule for the project, we would at least need the following information below to start the initial drawings:
– Location of stones used
– Type of stones used (optional)
– Dimensions/shapes of stones (optional)
– Movement/expansion joints dimensions (optional)
Note: THD can also provide 3D services needed for presentation or bidding.
3.4 Shop Drawings
Once the Master Drawing is ready to be used for stone works, isolation of rooms for shop drawing starts.
3.4.1 Survey Drawing
A survey drawing is needed in this stage to confirm that the architect drawings match the existing site. If the client is unable to provide Survey drawing, it is the decision of the client to give a go ahead to the shop drawings
3.4.2 (20) Blocking out Plan
Blocking out plan drawing is the process of isolating individual room plan from the whole Project.
The Master Drawing will be xrefed to the (20) series drawing. The Xrefed drawing’s origin point should be placed at 0,0,0 with UCS set to World and rotation angle to “0”. The room selected from (20) series should be “XClipped”. This whole process is done by the PA.
Xref drawing should be under the layer “A-Z000-G-xref”
Any layers not necessary for the project should be hidden. All necessary layers from the Xref drawing should be in colour Grey; index 8. This can only be done by changing the filed in “Layer Properties Manager”.
All stone should be colour coded to represent different types of stones used. Refer to 2.3.
3.5 (DE) series
The detail drawing are drawn once the (20) series are approved by the client. In certain cases the two series are done in parallel. Most of the information is usually provided by the client. But certain information needs the input of stone contractor i.e. stone joints, movement joints, connecting joints etc.
Any changes in the (DE) that affects the (20) or (22) series should be informed to PA who will then change it in Master Drawing.
3.6 (CS) Cutting Sheet
The drawing template for Cutting sheet can be found in THD drive.
The Xref drawing for cutting sheet will be (22) Series drawing. The placement of the Xrefed drawing should be placed at coordinates 0,0,0. Change all Xref layers to Grey; colour index 8. Xref drawings should be under the layer “A-Z000-G-xref”. Once Xrefed and XClipped are done, importing of stone profiles is next.
3.6.1 Importing Stones profiles
Copy all stone profiles drawing (do not copy the hatches) from (22) Series and place it over the drawing in Cutting sheet in coordinates 0,0,0. Change the colour of the stone layers to Red, colour index 1. This is done so that there is no need to re draw all stone profiles again. The colour is changed to red so that it stands out in the drawing as all other elements are in grey.
3.6.2 Stone Numbering
All stone numbering should be done in DTEXT. It should also be under its own layer separted by stone type. There is no standard method of numbering but it should be a mixture of letter and number i.e. F01.
3.6.3 Stone Layout Area
There is an area to place stones for the purpose of dimensioning. This area is preset in the drawing template.
Copy all stone profiles (in red) and stone numbers for the Drawing Area and place it in the Stone Layout Area.
3.6.4 Dimensiong for Cutting Tickets
The standard scale used for Cutting tickets is 1:20 but the client can request to change this. The dimension scale should be 2mm high times the scale of the drawing.
A Gross Dimensions is needed by Stone companies so that they can cut out a block from which the shape of the stone will be cut out.
A “Gross stone” outline in dashed with colour Grey will be created and put under layer; “Gross Stone_StoneType”
3.6.5 Net Dimensions
THD usually do not include net dimensions as it is not necessary for Cutting Machine. However on request, it can be done.
3.6.6 Cutting Tickets
The Cutting ticket template is already preset in the drawing template. The size of the paper is A3. It includes an automation calculation.
Note that if the client decides to use their own cutting ticket template, the automation calculation may not work.
3.6.7 Automatic Calculation.
To avoid humar errors in data input in the cutting sheets, THD tries as much as possible to minimze human imput.
Below you will see the cutting sheet template.