PAST PROJECTS | 2014
A unique and challenging project to structurally stabilize an 8-Chorten building with community participation.
The 8 chörten building is located in the oldest part of Wanla, called Somal. It is a structure housing the eight different types of chörtens with a roofed circumambulation path. It was traditionally owned by one family, but has been handed over to the community to gain more support for its upkeep. The Chorten also has 110-120 year- old wall paintings.
The structure is mainly made up of one rectangular inner room which is then surrounded by a veranda where people circumambulate the shrine. Both the veranda and the inner room share the same roof. The veranda is open on both lengthwise sides. On the short sides it is closed with mud brick walls. The roof is a traditional wooden construction, covered with an earth/clay mixture and supported by the tiny wooden columns of the veranda and the rear wall of the inner room.
The inner structure (shrine with the eight chörten on a row) is likewise made of adobe walls, while one of the long sides (the south façade facing the Wanla castle ruins) consists mainly of a wooden screen held by short walls. This wooden screen encloses eight windows (according to the number of chörten), which can be closed with wooden shutters. The one long and two adjoining short brick walls of this inner room surrounding the chörten are covered with wall paintings on clay plaster.
The building suffered from severe structural problems. The inner walls were leaning heavily and the structure was on the verge of collapsing completely. The painted walls had cracked in several places under these forces and roof leakages had caused damage on the wall paintings. Therefore, it was proposed to restore the construction structurally and thus save the building and its precious interior from destruction.
All restoration and conservation activities were implemented during two campaigns. The first campaign beheld the structural restoration of the 8 chörten building and took place under the guidance of a conservation architect and wall painting conservators. A second campaign concerned the conservation work after the structural restoration, meaning cleaning, securing the plaster of the painted walls and chörten and protecting the new wooden constructions.
Within the span of one year, the building (and certainly the roof and the parapets) was showing even more damages because people were afraid of going on the roof to maintain it. Thus, a restoration proposal was made and discussed with the other conservation architects of Achi Association. It was decided to put in supplementary wooden structures to support the roof and to take away most of the load from the reclining wall and wooden screen. This implied a demolition of the roof and some dilapidated parts of walls, putting in the new wooden structures followed by the reconstruction of walls and roof.
All Photographs : HIlde Vets (hilde vets (hildevetsarchitect.be))
View from the 8-Chorten building into the river valley below.
The tilted wall of the 8-Chorten building being pushed into position during its conservation.
The building after conservation.
Construction of Pakboo or mud bricks for the repair of the 8-Chorten building.
One of the 8 Chortens in the building.
Roof works on the 8 Chorten building.
The roof of the 8-Chorten building after being opened for relaying.
Local community members who worked on the project.
All architectural restoration and conservation measures were undertaken using traditional techniques and materials employed by the local masons and craftsmen. The 8 chörten building was structurally preserved and its interiors, the wall paintings and the eight chörten, were saved. The project aimed to maintain its authenticity of functions. Therefore, all restoration and conservation measures have been preceded by consent from both the resident monks as well as the village community. During and after the restoration a lot of appreciation was received from the locals as well as monks.
This project made it clear that a far-reaching and inclusive effort is needed to guarantee the interest and active participation of the community as a whole. As regards, the practice of using modern materials like cement is getting rooted in the mind of the people, Achi Association needs to continue to transmit conservation strategies to the local communities and encourage pride in traditional wisdom by promoting the use of traditional building materials like clay, local grass and mud bricks.