Urban Fabric of the City
HISTORIC NEWARI SETTLEMENT: KIRTIPUR, NEPAL Continue……….. Last Chapter
By: Jabina Shrestha
The “Newari” House cont………
I have been writing about Newari House-“Nepal’s oldest settlement housing style”. This is my last blog for Historic Newari Settlement where I have described its construction and materials in brief with an example of Newachen, Shrestha House restorated with modern amenities.
Traditional internal finishes and furnishings are simple throughout the house. Floors and walls are usually covered in a red clay slip that dries to a hard finish. In most of the houses, walls are painted blue or white.
Walls: The traditional house is a load-bearing brickwork construction, with floor joists spanning between the front and back walls and the central spine wall. Typically, the overall depth of the house is 6 to 6.50 m. The walls are generally 450mm. thick, with an outer face of fired brick, but otherwise built of sun-dried mud bricks.
Floors and Stairs: The ground Floor may be mud, tiled, other floors are of timber with the floor joists spanning front to back and usually projecting right through the external wall to show on the outer face, and internally lapping well over the central spine wall.
Typically, stairs run at approximately 550 pitches, with flights one above the other and with seven widely spaced open treads. Nine and eleven treads are common with the higher floor- to- floor heights of the newly constructed houses.
Roof: The roof is double-pitched with the ridge on the line of the central spine wall, and a projecting overhang of 900mm at front and back. The structure is of timber and comprises columns on the centre line supporting a ridge beam, intermediate purlins supported on primary rafters, a wall plate, an outer beam supported on angled struts, and then the rafters pegged together over the ridge beam and projecting out over the walls to the outer beam.
1.1 Sketch of typical Newari House showing different elements and spaces.
Nowadays instead of demolishing our ancestral home and constructing cement and concrete high-rise, old houses are chosen to transform it into an elegant house retaining the characteristics of a traditional Newari House.
Few years back I had visited to The "Newa Chén" i a well-preserved example of a traditional Newari house in the Kathmandu Valley. This is a three-storied Shrestha ‘s house that has been transformed into tourist accommodation Inn with low ceilings, mortar and brick walls, warm subdued lighting and tranquil courtyards, but it has been fully modernized.
1.2 Central Wing of NewaChen
Shrestha house now called Newa Chén offers rooms equipped with modern amenities like, among other things, attached bathrooms and bathtubs on some of the rooms, unlike a traditional house, but there has been no compromise on the elegance of the original structure.
The eight rooms in the inn include one deluxe room, five rooms with attached baths and three rooms that have a shared bath. Prices range from US $17/- dollar to upwards of US $30/- for a room. The rooms are minimalist in design and are furnished in traditional Newar style, with sukuls (straw mats) spread on the floor instead of glossy carpets. Rooms are named after the auspicious symbols of the ‘Astha Matrika’ (Eight auspicious symbols).
Newa Chén is an excellent example of how traditional buildings can be preserved through rehabilitation and sustainable tourism activities. “Newa Chén speaks volumes for the preservation of traditional architecture and cultural landscapes that should not be sacrificed in the name of urbanization.