Thursday, 8 October 2015

Sur Sundara

In tune with Beauty

Traditional construction in Bhangeri village, Nuwakot
A pictorial report on a survey conducted for the villages of Kaule and Bhangeri in Sundara Devi VDC, Nuwakot District, from Sept 28 - Oct 2 2015, prior to Prototype Construction Training Workshop scheduled for Oct 25 - Nov 5

Till Now... 

Recce visit by Sujoy Das and Sharan Lal

April - May 2015 

Sujoy Das was still trying to get his trekking team back to Kathmandu through the rubble and chaos that followed the shake, when I offered to help find a design solution with a traditional approach to reconstruction.

In May 2015 Sujoy and I visited Kaule and Bhangeri - villages in Nuwakot District and home to our friends, porters and guides - led by the indomitable Santaman Tamang.

In this trip, corrugated Zinc Sheets donated by the trekking community from South Col Expeditions were distributed among the villagers. These would provide temporary shelter to the villagers and see them through the monsoon.

One of the several houses in Kaule that collapsed in the earthquake (Pix -Sujoy)

 Design of a House

June 2015

On our return, I worked on a design that would seek to resist the inevitable invasion of inappropriate construction materials, methods and technologies that usually rush in after a disaster, trampling in the process invaluable vernacular traditions and community wisdom that take generations to acquire, nurture, and preserve. 

The draft concept design (video) developed after the May 2015 recce can be seen here:

Concept design of a re-contructed house using stone, mud, bamboo, timber and thatch


Prototype for Reconstruction

July 2015 

On receiving reasonable (moral) support for the design, I proposed to Sujoy that we:

a. build a prototype for a house in Kaule that caters to requirements of a seismically secure structure, an is built using traditional building techniques,

b. Conduct a Training Workshop for the villages' masons, carpenters, and other artisans to empower them with necessary skills for making seismically secure structures using techniques and materials that are available locally - stone, wood, bamboo, mud, and thatch.

Wanting to use our pre-training recce as an opportunity to map the villages of Kaule and Bhangeri in order to prepare a detailed re-habilitation proposal for each of the 200 affected households later, I put together a team of professionals with help from Vivek Rawal of 'People In Centre', Ahmedabad.

Since funds were not available for the survey, a generous grant for the detailed survey trip was put together by Ajmal Shoban from Virginia, U.S.A, who was on his way to Kathmandu for a trek to Nar and Phu valleys with Sujoy. With the promise of a ticket, a toilet, and a tent, the team of professionals took off for Kathmandu on the 26th and then to Kaule on the 26th of October. In the backdrop, the uncertainty of getting fuel for the return journey grew - but that was to be tackled later...

The Kaule and Bhangeri Village Survey 

A pictorial report

Sept 26 - Oct 5, 2015

A detailed architectural and anthropological survey was conducted for roughly 200 affected houses and households in the villages of Kaule and Bhangeri.

The effort was assisted by two freshly graduated architects from Mysore - Aditya and Siddharth, who offered their services free os charge - Thanks to the two of you.

 Santaman Tamang of the village hosted the entire team in his house for the 4 day duration at his own cost with an extremely high order of hospitality. Thank you Santaman.


Sept 27th (Indra Rath Day)

Re-Use, Re-cycle, Re-Rope

A March in September

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square Rath

On the road from Kathmandu to Kaule

Sept 28th

Bamboo growing along the way from Kathmandu to Kaule 

Tied down yet soaring high

Picture perfect Nuwakot 

The Ugly

The Bad

The Good
The better - a local school on the way to Kaule constructed in Bamboo

Though the detailing was hurried and temporary - it is a brave effort with an eye for detai

Another attempt at using bamboo - also for temporary shelters though

Much better detailing than the last one - but still temporary in nature

The wire in the joints are starting to rust - and weaken as a result over time

Guru Ji (our driver) at the wheel starts his land Cruiser up the kutchcha road fom Satbise to Santaman's house just below Kaule. 

Santaman informs us that he has managed to put this road in 'Priority 1' list in the Ministry of urban Development and that it should be a smooth motorable surface in a couple of years' time. Best of Luck and God Speed. For those who wish to experience how this ride would actually feel try this link here:

Santaman's House, Kaule

Sept 28th

The 'aangan' outside Santaman's house in Kaule - in a rare early morning moment when he kids were found sitting

Santaman's sister-in-law, his younger brother (Chitra) - a teacher, and the super host Santaman supervising our dinner after a course of Raksi

The 'aangan' outside Santaman's house after Raksi

Santaman's family - those who were present while we were there. Their mother is in Kathmandu undergoing chemotherapy

Materials and moods

Sept 29th, 30th, Nov 1

The houses are pretty much the same as we left them in May 2015 - except more permanently temporary. The wait continues. The temporary shelters are using the Zinc sheets supplied earlier without nails so they can be used for permamanent houses later

Wife, Husband, Father, House?

New stone work constructed during the last two months
Local stone wall under construction

A carved Door jamb detail from Kaule

....mud plaster work...

.... bamboo work...

....creating a combination of spaces with mood lighting...

....creating a riot...

....and magic of informal proportions...

Some of the houses seem to have withstood the shocks from some angles...

....though not really from inside...  - constructed just three years ago

Photographic Documentation

200 households in Kaule and Bhangeri

Archana Hande

Anthropolgical Documentation

200 households in Kaule and Bhangeri

Siddharth Arya

Architectural Documentation

200 households in Kaule and Bhangeri

Aditya Rao

GPS survey and Solar Power Assessment

200 households in Kaule and Bhangeri

Pradeep Humagain (Gham power, Kathmandu)

A big thank you to Pradeep from Gham Power for accompanying us to Kaule - it would have been twice as difficult and time consuming without you. Also to Kishore, General Manager, Gham Power, Kathmandu, who has offered to donate a 40W Solar powered lighting and mobile charging unit for the prototype.

during the survey we mapped roughly 200 houses with their plinth sizes, orientation, Northings, Eastings and Altitude

and recorded Anthropological Data for them

95% of the original house plinths in both Kaule and Bhangeri were covered

....Including one in which seven people were killed - the plinth is covered with flowers now...

The Generator, Observer and the Destroyer was also one of the Destroyed

We found a lot of bamboo in Kaule and Bhangeri itself - demolishing the myth that Bamboo only grows in Terai (the area between the foothills and the plains of India). With a little bit of an all-round effort - a social forestry scheme can produce all the bamboo ever needed for entire villages - as the plant replenishes every three years into a fresh source of supply

Santaman and I also identified a hillside above and between Kaule and Bhangeri that could be used for the purpose of growing bamboo under a Community Forestry schemes supported by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Department of Forests, Government of Nepal. Webpage:

The new site for the prototype was also identified on this trip - selected from among three options identified by Santaman. The site of an old school building that was destroyed in the earthquake was chosen because of its proximity to the flat ground that is needed for the 30 feet long pit required for treating bamboo, for drying them, and for conducting the Skills Development Workshop

The site is also close to the new school (still under construction but in use) and the project will offer school children an opportunity to be a part of the process at an early age
The prototype site seen from below

The site also offers itself as a suitable location for primary First Aid Post for the villages of Kaule and Bhangeri

Abhishek, Soham, and Vikram - ones who will hopefully gain from this project when they grow up

While we were measuring the site we were wondering what use could the prototype be put to later. Almost as if decreed by providence, a patient under an asthama attack had to be rushed down the hill on a temporary stretcher made of bamboo shouldered by four young men. The foot journey takes close to two hours to reach the nearest post where the patient gets some First Aid, before being shifted to a hospital. The prototype presents itself as an ideal candidate to be used a FIRST AID POST - maintained and serving as a school medical facility and accessible to the village at large. Here is a video of the of the foot journey the asthma patient had to undertake:

That night the moon descended on Santaman's terrace with a paintbrush in her hands...

And painted in Satbise, the one-horse town below the Kaule hill, with an earthy brown palette, breakfast for the morning after...

....Many breakfasts, actually. While Guru Ji and Santaman begged fuel from passing vehicles for us to make it back to Kathmandu - they managed 5 litres at a time at premium rates due to the agitation in the Terai - and we were off by 11 am after a couple of beers and a few breakfasts!

Dinner to die for at Decheling in Kathmandu where we met Saibal Ghosh - the Country Manager for Berger Paints who used his experience in Nepal to get us 200 kilos of Boric Acid and 300 Kgs of Borax required for the treatment of Bamboos for the prototype. All this when there was an agitation brewing in the Terai. Without his help, the training of villagers in treatment of bamboo for the prototype as per schedule would not have been possible. Thank you Saibal, and Srijit Dasgupta from Calcutta for lining this up.

While on the topic - buff momos in soulful curry for lunch in Kathmandu...

...and roast chicken with Khukhuri rum for dinner at Yak restaurant in Thamel

Sumptuous Nirvana Garden breakfast before catching a taxi to the airport

Archana, Sharan, Santaman, Areen, Aditya, Siddharth


Oct 26 - Nov 2, 2015

Skills Training Programme

Kaule and Bhangeri

A Skills Training Workshop has been scheduled for the residents of Kaule and Bhangeri from Oct 26 - Nov 2 (subject to availability of funds). The workshop aims to transfer knowledge and skills to 15-20 locals from these villages in the following:

1. Bamboo chemical treatment and preservation (using Borax and Boric acid)
2. Precautions in using Bamboo
3. Bamboo to bamboo jointing 
4. Bamboo to timber joints
5. Bamboo as a reinforcing material for stone masonry
6. Bamboo cultivation and community forestry
7. Seismic considerations for stone masonry
8. Mud mortar preparation
9. Mud plaster preparation and application
10. Wood working and seismic considerations
11. Mini solar lighting system installation and maintenance
12. Solar water heating mechanisms Installation and maintenance
13. Art and craft Workshop

among others. 

The Kaule Prototype Team

Sharan Lal, Kolkata, India 
Team leader

Santaman Tamang, Kaule, Nepal
Village Representative and Local Support

Ajmal Shoban, Virginia, U.S.A.
Donor Representative
Archana Hande, Mumbai, India
Photographic documentation
Administration and Accounts
Art Workshop

Pradeep Humagain, Kathmandu Nepal
Renewable Energy Consultant and GPS Survey
(Courtesy Gham Power, Nepal)

Aditya Rao, Mysore, india
Architectural and Anthropological Survey

Siddharth Arya, Mysore, india
Architectural and Anthropological Survey

Areen Attari, Mumbai, India
Training and Workshop resource person

Sujoy Das, Kolkata, India
Group mentor

Vivek Rawal, Ahmedabad, india
Technical Mentor and resource person

Saibal Ghosh, Berger Kathmandu, Nepal
Procurement Assistance

Sanjay, Ram, Maan Bahadur, and Others
Kaule and Bhangeri Village

Mahender Upadhyay (Guru Ji), Kathmandu, Nepal

Santaman's Sister-in-laws, Kaule, nepal
Culinary Experts