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RECENT PROJECTS  | 2022-2023

Mulbek

Conservation of one of the oldest temples in Purik constructed in the late 14th century.

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Introduction

The Nyima Lhakhang is a commemorative temple erected in the late 14 th century, being
the oldest surviving Buddhist temple in the western part of Purik. It was built following the death of king Sengge Gyalpo by his son. According to the foundation inscription, Sengge Gyalpo appears to have ruled over a small kingdom centered on Phokhar that extended to Mulbek, Wakha, Staktse and Kharpoche (ancient name of the fortress of Bod Kharbu) with the support of the Kashmir Sultanate. Its interior features a wooden laternendecke (diamond-shaped ceiling), which is one of the few rare surviving examples of this kind nowadays. The temple contains mural paintings and unique inscriptions in Tibetan, among which a royal edict.

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Conservation

Because of the rarity of this building and its contents, the main scope of the project was to preserve the overall integrity of the structure and assuring its long life with minimal maintenance. The architectural project was mostly concentrated on the roof repair considering that the original one suffered from protracted weathering and negligence. Due to increasing rain patterns in the region in the last decade, traditional flat roofs made of earth layers have become very vulnerable. From houses to temples, buildings across Ladakh have been severely damaged and water infiltrations are amongst the number one threats for a painted building. The preciousness of the paintings and inscriptions inside this building required a long lasting yet inexpensive solution to prevent water infiltration. The original flat roof made supported by two main beams, rafters and wooden planks was covered by 20 cubic metres of compacted earth (approximately 40 to 50cm cm thickness). The under dimensioned wooden elements suffered from the excessive load of the earth that was gradually added with time, thus four props had been likely placed already several decades ago in the weakest points of the structure (where beams presented small cracks).

 

The new design solution was based on removing the thick earthen layer and free the horizontal structure from loads; the overall weight of the earthen layer was nearly 30 tonnes. The new design solution keeps the original structure intact while at the same time, protects it with a second roof above the original horizontal structure. In order to do this, the two main pillars and capitals that were still structurally sound, have been extended vertically by means of newly introduced and customized wooden pieces. These timber elements were carved by hand by a team of carpenters to fit on top of the original pillars/capitals and connected to them by means of wooden pegs. This vertical extension creates a gap between the original rafters and planks, rising the height of the vertical structure. In this way, it was possible to place new main beams and rafters above the original roof that would remain visible inside the temple, but without any load from the new roof above. Once the original horizontal structure was freed from the load it was possible to remove the props and reconstitute the visual and spatial integrity of the original room with its paintings.

 

Above the new timber structure there is an insulating layer made of sawdust mixed with lime and a series of sloped wooden rafters are connected to the new wooden beams and external walls to form a frame for a sloped roof. To complete the roofing, a series of galvanized metal sheets are fixed on top pitched structure. The main concept behind the repair was to achieve a hybrid roof typology: the main protective layer is constituted by metal sheets with a 6% slope that can withstand protracted rainy days and heavy snowfall. Underneath the external layers is a new wooden structure which loads are distributed on the external walls and on the two original pillars. In this way, the original wooden ceiling is preserved and protected from further damage. In order to avoid the visual impact of a metal roof on the temple (which would have been similar to the way the temple was covered by a very sloped pitched roof for over ten years), the new galvanised sheets have been embedded on the three main sides within a traditional parapet known as spedma. This parapet projects and rises on top of the three main elevations of the temple and it is constituted by stacked wooden elements and a thick layer of horizontally laid bundles of willow sticks (50cm) that is capped by wooden planks, slate and a coping made of lime and sand (non-traditional) in order to withstand weathering agents for longer. With the introduction of a traditional projecting parapet within which a sloped metal roof is placed, it was possible to achieve a proportionally and visually congruent solution within the traditional cultural landscape.

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Temple before restoration and dismantling of the metal roof
Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Working on the roof

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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New horizontal Structure

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Installation of the metal sheets inside the parapet

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Removing the earth from the original roof

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Putting back the original wooden planks of the laternendecke

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Sloped roof structure for the galvanized sheets

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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View of the repaired temple on the cliff above the agricultural fields of the village

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Revealing the wooden roof

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Fixing the new main beams

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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Installation of the metal sheets inside the parapet

Credits-Edoardo Paolo Ferrari

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View of the repaired temple on the cliff above the agricultural fields of the village 

Credits-Quentin Devers

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