Friday, March 20, 2015

Weekend Getaways III – Krakow, Poland

By Ryan Kinport

I boarded another train for Poland and settled in for the scenic nine hour ride. I had been looking forward to the trip as I have an interest in war history and Krakow was an important administrative center for the regional Reich. It was also the location of the Płaszów and Auschwitz concentration camps. Fortunately due to its geographic location and lack of high value targets much of the city remained intact after the war. In 1978 the Old Town was placed on the first UNESCO World Heritage list.

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Wawel Castle is a pristine Gothic structure built in the 14th century. During WW2 it was the occupation force’s headquarters. Today it is a well maintained national museum with beautiful accompanying gardens. The craftsmanship was outstanding.

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Old Town is the main draw in the central city. The main square contains a small bazar and is surrounded by cathedrals and other ornate buildings. These are the Saint Peter and Paul 12 Disciples and the Old Town Tower. This is the cleanest and best maintained historical district I have seen. It is obvious a great deal of effort is made to insure these structures survive for future generations.
As beautiful as Krakow is it is inevitable that you will end up visiting Auschwitz- Birkenau. It was a warm spring day when I visited which was at total odds with the spirit of the place. It saw 1.1 million pass through before the Soviet liberation in January of 1945.

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Auschwitz I Outer Road

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Auschwitz I Crematorium

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Auschwitz II Barracks

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Auschwitz II Electrified Fence

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Auschwitz II Crematorium Pond
It was difficult to imagine the numbers massacred, even after seeing the shoe piles, until I saw hundreds of pounds of human ash that still remain 70 years later. It was particularly sad as this was located in the family camp. I have heard survivors speak of their experiences at the camps but it was not concrete to me until witnessing the grounds. It was certainly a sad day but I feel it was an important experience for me.

Learning Experience

By Anthony Michael

As my spring break wraps up and I get back into the swing of school I have been reflecting upon the experiences that where presented to me over the past week.  I was fortunate enough to be able to Extern with two phenomenal firms in Chicago, IL.  I spent two days at IA (Interior Architects), and then three days at Gensler.
During my time spent at IA I got to see how a larger firm operates.  One of the major things that I noticed when I was shadowing people was how connected that everyone was.  Even though there was upwards of forty some people in the office, it seemed that they all had very integral parts in all of the projects, or at least knew what was going on in other projects around the office.  While there I got to see how IA approaches new clients and tries to gain business with them.  Being able to see the various products that where specifically manipulated to show how IA would be the best fit for the client, or presentation techniques and graphic iterations that show the same yet different techniques to the client.  The firm seemed to desire a strong relationship, and a very approachable relationship with all of their clients, so that throughout the whole design and build processes there were no if very few questions. I also got to visit a construction site with them, to see how their designs for open plan, collaborative workspaces for office buildings are constructed.  The site I got to visit was a pilot space for a confidential corporation so that they could make the transition into the modern world of business. 
The other three days that I got to spend at Gensler I got to experience how an architectural cooperation that employs thousands of architects operates.  I felt like that same kind of client experience was still there with how personal they make the presentations for the clients and how they try and meet the client’s needs.  However the atmosphere was vastly different between the two firms. I think that this came from the shear fact that Gensler has so many more people working for them that it is hard to know everyone who works in the office.  Although it was amazing to be able to see the various approaches that were taken upon a multitude of projects, ranging from corporate offices for dog food companies to law offices. 
Overall I had a great experience that made me more excited to finish up school on a strong note and get out into the workforce, pushing my ideas and thoughts.

Architecture around us

By Chase Masters

In this blog 13 I wanted to talk about a trip to Chicago I took and the experience I got from this.  For Spring Break I took a trip to Chicago, IL to take some picture of the site I chose for my Thesis project.  I have been in Chicago many of times before, however this time was the first time I went to take pictures of my site.  I was doing this to further understand the relationship between the buildings and the surroundings to the site and as well as get a sense of the human scale.  I took many of pictures of the buildings around the area, the river, the bridges, and the site that I have been working on.
I continued through the city with my dad who pointed out some buildings and talked about its history and the architecture.  As he pointed out details of the architecture and we took pictures I saw a side of the city that normally I would walk right by on my way to my destination.  This gave me a deeper appreciation of these buildings and other buildings that I would normally walk by.  I used to always look up at buildings and have a quick glance at them while I try to continue to reach my destination, but taking the time to stop and take pictures brought out a new level of appreciation of the building’s details.

From this I learned a better understanding of how people interact with the architecture that surrounds them.  That it’s difficult to understand the intricate details when you spend a small amount of time near that building, but experiencing it every day brings out more understand to those who live around the building.  It’s nice to see a building stand out from the surroundings, but also have the building that stood out to also give more and new experiences each visit by.
If you enjoy seeing different buildings and like to see other peoples perspectives you can check out to see how some architects see buildings also.

Theory Discussion

By Sean Williamson

Over break I began to read Kenneth Frampton’s Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an architecture of resistance. So I thought it would be fit for me to discuss my readings during this weeks blog. Theory is a very difficult topic to read and actually comprehend what you just read. Although the readability was a little more complex than I was used to, I was still able to understand the major points the author was hitting.
After reading part 1 ‘Culture and Civilization’, there was a quote that I found very interesting. “Today the practice of architecture seems to be increasingly polarized between, on the one hand, a so-called high tech approach predicated exclusively upon production and, on the other, the provision of a “compensatory façade” to cover up the harsh realities of this universal system.” (Frampton, 1983, pg.18). The statement above describes how modern architecture is based on universal prefabricated pieces not individualized for that particular project. Frampton then goes on to say these universal systems are covered up by a “compensatory façade”, or in other words, compensate the architecture with a façade. Unfortunately, today’s architecture is all about how cheap can it be done.
Part 4 labeled ‘The Resistance of the Place-Form’ is another section I found very interesting. The first sentence reveals a harsh reality “…with the exception of cities which were laid in place before the turn of the century, we are no longer able to maintain defined urban forms.” (Frampton, 1983, pg.26). In my opinion, urban planners have failed to develop an urban fabric beneficial to the modern 21st century. The author Kenneth Frampton and I share this belief, “Today even the super-managerial discipline of urban planning has entered into a state of crisis.” (Frampton, 1983, pg.26).
My last point of interest I’m going to discuss is found within part 5. The author feels there is a lack of interaction between the landscape of a structure and the structure itself “The bulldozing of an irregular topography into a flat site is clearly a technocratic gesture which aspires to a condition of absolute placelessness, whereas the terracing of the same site to receive the stepped form of a building is an engagement in the act of “cultivating” the site.” (Frampton, 1983, pg.29). I believe this is a very true statement. This happens every day in America, millions of bulldozers reshaping this Earth. Designers need to take a step back and rethink the way we think about topography.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring break Job Hunt

By Patrick Londrigan

To take a break from stadiums, this week’s blog will be about my last week experience, spring break. 

Over spring break I traveled to Austin, Texas, with my girlfriend Lindsay, with hopes of talking to architecture firms and finding a job.  Before I left for my trip I attempted contacting five firms.  Letting them know I was going to be in the area for my break and I had interest in their firm and would like to meet with them.  Only a couple firms responded to my email(s) but I wasn’t worried I was still going to make a trip out of it.  We arrived in Austin late Monday and we spent Tuesday exploring the area and enjoying ourselves.  We went downtown, went to the University of Texas campus, and explored the SoCo (South Congress) area where we had lunch.  After lunch we had our first graffiti park experience.  The area was fantastic.

Wednesday, I worked on getting ahold of those firms I emailed again.  Also searched the AIA Austin website for other firms that I possibly hadn’t contacted yet.  Calling these firms did not give me a glimpse of hope, with most firms turning me down.  Not yet discouraged, I emailed a few more firms and made a few more calls.  While I waited to hear back I was updating my portfolio.  It wasn’t until late afternoon, I heard back from CTA Architects|Engineers, and they wanted to set up a meeting with me on Friday.  I finally had some hope.  I finished up my portfolio, wrote a cover letter for my resume, and I was ready for Friday.
After hearing the good news we decided to spend our Thursday in San Antonio.  Enjoying the, finally good, weather and enjoy the San Antonio River Walk.  I did have an interview lined up with a firm there as well, Overland Partnership.  Until I received an email late Wednesday night and they had to cancel and told me that they are only looking for student interns, or people with five years’ experience.  Dishearten, so I decided to use Thursday as a vacation day.  We walked the River Walk, where we also had lunch, and saw the Alamo.  San Antonio is beautiful.

Friday was our last day in town, with Saturday being the day we leave.  With my meeting that afternoon I was off to staples to attempt to print my resume and portfolio.  After so many miss prints I had to leave to edit my files, just to come back an hour later where I ran into more problems.  After a stressful morning, with staples being behind, my miss prints, and my debit card getting declined (due to possible fraud) I was finally on my way.  The meeting went great and the firm is looking to expand.  So fingers crossed!
All in all, fantastic trip, Austin and San Antonio are both fantastic areas and if you haven’t been I recommend it.

History of My Hometown

By Michael Young

As a child when you are in the car with your parents driving down the road you wonder how are these large structures are able to stand by themselves or how to even start building and constructing them.  Our hometown is more than just where we were born and raised.  It can represent who we are.  I’m from Springfield, IL that is home to many important buildings and structures throughout the town such as; the Old State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the State Fair entrance, and the Dana Thomas House.  The Hoogland Center for the Arts in downtown is a centerpiece for performing arts, and houses many performance organizations. The city has attracted numerous prominent visitors, including President George W. Bush, the actor Liam Neeson, and the Emir of Qatar. There are 6 public and private high schools located in Springfield, along with 3 universities such as: U of I at Springfield, Benedictine University at Springfield, and Robert Morris University. Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport serves the capital city with scheduled passenger jet service to many major airport hubs. Some of the surrounding suburbs of Springfield include: Chatham, IL, Sherman, IL, Rochester, IL, and Petersburg, IL. Throughout the years the architecture has changed dramatically around town.
Springfield’s original name was Calhoun, named after the Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The land was founded in the 1810’s. The first settlers to come to Springfield were trappers and traders that were traveling along the Sangamon River. The settlements first cabin was built in 1820 by a man named John Kelley. Many traders came to central Illinois for the reason of fertile soil and thought the crops would produce good trade. According to the 2010 Census, Springfield is home to about 117,00 residents. Springfield is located in the central part of Illinois about 90 miles northeast of St Louis, and about 200 miles south of Chicago. It has a total area of about 60 square miles and lies in the Illinois River Basin known as the Till Plain. The city is mostly a flat plain and so is much of its surroundings. The most famous resident of Springfield, IL was Abraham Lincoln who moved to the city in 1837 until 1861 when he left for the White House. Many tourists attractions are spread around the area that deal with Lincoln’s remembrance.

Student Mentoring Program

By Brittney Mount

For this week’s blog I would like to discuss a mentoring program that was implemented into the school of architecture here at SIUC a few years ago. The sophomores in SIUC’s architecture program are required to take their first building technology course which involves wood constructions. It’s the first time students experience working on construction document sets which I remember being very overwhelming. Not only are you still learning the many programs used throughout architecture, but throw in the construction jargon, materials, and code restrictions, and it is very easy to get lost. I feared those red marks from my professor which always managed to cover the sheet; this was when I truly learned there are always more changes to make.
In the beginning of my junior year, the professor from that course had proposed the idea of doing a peer mentoring program between the juniors who had taken the building technology course with the new sophomore class. I thought this was a fantastic idea because it not only gives the sophomores extra options for help, but being able to go to a more relatable source seemed like a less intimidating option. We were set up with three students to mentor throughout the semester, with two required scheduled meetings. My students looked to me for help quite a lot, and I won’t lie I really enjoyed redlining their drawings and helping them out with all of their questions.
I believe this mentoring program has been very successful, and that I have benefited from the mentoring as much as the younger students did. Through spotting their mistakes and explaining it to them the material sinks in more and more permanently. I have remained a mentor since my junior year and am still in contact with at least half of the students. It became not only about questions about their building technology course, but about their other courses and basic words of advice about the road to becoming an architect. The world of architecture is very intense and complicated and it is very helpful to have someone to discuss your endless questions with. While at the same time it is nice to share your experiences, good and bad, with younger students, to help ease their journey to becoming an architect.

Spring Break

By Ethan Brammeier

Spring break was last week and it was like every other spring break I’ve had – a week to catch up.  While other college students go to Florida or other exciting places, the majority of architecture students spend it on their computers or in their beds.  Every year of college I have spent spring break either working or catching up on projects. 
The first day of spring break I had surgery and spent the rest of break lying around with my body numb from drugs.  I actually didn’t mind the surgery because it gave me a reason to work on my thesis.  When I got home from surgery I wasn’t really in the mood to work on anything so I spent the rest of the day watching TV.  Every other day I spent a good majority of the day working on my thesis.  The rest of that week I finished a majority of my building floor plans.  I have the first floor nearly finished and about 75% of the second floor developed.  I also modeled a portion of the building in Revit so I could play with materials.  Part of the reason why I chose stone and brick as a material was to match the duplexes near the site.  Below are images of the first floor plan to my assisted living facility and a quick rendering of what building materials I plan to use. 

First Floor Plan

Revit Rendering

Introduction of Chinese existing oldest Wood temple

By Li Haoyang

When I was six years old, my parents took me to the Shanxi (a province in the north China region) for a vacation. Mount Wutai is a famous attraction of Shanxi province. There are lots of temples in Mount Wutai, and these temples are dedicated to the Buddhist deity. Temples make the Mount Wutai became a very famous Buddhist Mountain. When passing by, one must visit these temples.
My parents bring me to a temple named Foguangsi (Foguang Temple). For a six-year-old child, only interesting things can help him focus. But the history of temple has brought a deepest shock to me. Every old wood pillar has the scars of history, and those scars, for young me, were just like a painting. The scars had a lot of history. I can remember the big sculptures as I walked into the temple. It was colorless but grand. Whether one believes in Buddhism, one will have the urge to worship. The temple is boring to a boy, but it is important to an architect, especially a Chinese one.

Foguang Temple is the biggest existing, and second oldest wooden building in China. With the 1000 years after it had been built, some dynasty has repaired it once or twice, it still in existence and in relatively in good condition. ( Rain and insects easily destroy the wood, but one earthquake can destroy the temple completely, making the structure of this building important. As an architect, I wonder what made the temple last 1000 years.
Foguang Temple has an epic historic meaning to China. It broke a Japanese scholar’s assertion: There is no Tang (618-907) and earlier wooden structure building existing in China. (Itō, C., & Chen, Q. 1998) China has a long history of using wood to build buildings, and there have also been lots of wars within this history. And I think our Chinese have a “bad” habit; when they conquer a city, they like to ruin the important and valuable buildings and then build them themselves. Honestly, it’s a good way to start and maintain their rule. Because they ruined the old valuable buildings, they can destroy the faith of the former adherents and establish their own symbol of power. With being destroyed year after year, Foguang Temple is evidence of this old country’s wisdom, strength and cruelty.
There are some Buddhist sculptures and murals still in the temple. Mount Wutai is treated as the number one Buddhist Mountain in China. (Common sense) The sculpture and murals are the art part of the Buddhist history and culture. And they also reflect the culture of the Tang Dynasty. Researching these will help us know the background of this temple. The sculptures and murals have high value.
When we talk about the wooden building, we cannot ignore the beauty of its main structural elements—Dougong. The Chinese start using Dougong around 700 BC. (Fu, Glahn, Thorp & Juliano, 1984) After time goes on, Dougong also changes a lot with the style and the looks. During the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), there was a book written named Ying Zao Fa Shi, 1100, which includes almost all the instructions on how to make a building and how to make Dougong. Ying Zao Fa Shi plays a very important role in China’s old building development history. Every dynasty after Song just changed a little or added some of their own things into it. The Chinese used it until the last dynasty of China, Qing (1644-1912). (Fu et al., 1984) Foguang Temple is built during the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty was a dynasty before the Song Dynasty. So the structure of Foguang Temple is the example of Ying Zao Fa Shi. The Chinese have this book now, but Foguang Temple is the only one large and old enough that lead to the later wooden buildings.
With researching it further; we can see more culture and more custom of ancient China. We can see how the building developed during the dynasty change. We can also learn from the history, and it is important to preserve the old building. Foguang Temple is the pearl of ancient Chinese buildings.


Critical Regionalism

By Kyle Fountain

In chapter five of Kenneth Frampton’s writing on Critical Regionalism, he explains that a bulldozed flattened site and a building which turns its back to the natural elements of light and sensory removes a site’s sense of place.1 
“Critical Regionalism necessarily involves a more directly dialectical relation with nature than the more abstract, formal traditions of modern avant-garde architecture allow.  It is self-evident that the tabula rasa tendency of modernization favors the optimum use of earth-moving equipment in as much as a totally flat datum is regarded as the most economic matrix upon which to predicate the rationalization of construction between universal civilization and autochthonous culture.”
Now, through economic modernization of fast track, quick turnover projects, the idea of bulldozing a site is very efficient.  This is especially true if the architect is able to continue to design while site work is in progress.  The inherent problem that seems to be trending is that the less time the architect spends on a conceptual design, the cheaper the project becomes, and therefore has a better chance of being built.  It seems that on the road to contextual mastery, the ultimate goal is to define the line of complete seamlessness from interior to exterior through topography, lighting, and shelter from climate.  For instance, if a structure follows a steep sites topography too closely, it won’t be accessibility requires.  One successful fundamental approach alluded to by Mario Botta is to “build the site”.1  “It is possible to argue that in this last instance the specific culture of the region-that is to say, its history in both a geological and agricultural sense-becomes inscribed into the form and realization of the work.”1 
            Still, topography is only one variable in a building’s attempt to fit into a site.  Today, with modern technology, it is easy to completely close off certain typologies to the environment all together.  Buildings designed to hold fragile works of art are often criticized for turning its back to natural light.1  Fortunately, modernism in the context of present day, is beginning to incorporate natural light into museums.  One terrific example is the Art Institute in Chicago.  This building is a great example of two modern designs which are opposing in context.  The old modern building is completely closed off to the public except through the grand stairs if only during open hours.  The “modern wing’ however, utilizes Renzo Piano’s famous double refracted floating light curtain as a way to allow natural diffused light in to the galleries.  Likewise there are several means by which to enter the building, even when the galleries are closed.
             1.  Frampton, Kenneth “Towards a Critical Regionalism:  Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance.”  The Anti-Aesthetic, Essays on Postmodern Culture. (New York: The New Press 1998), 17-35.

Learning | an experience, a life, an adventure

By Stephen Tutka

Over the Spring Break at Southern I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in, what SIU refers to as, an externship. An externship is a program for students at SIU that is hosted by the Alumni Association that allows students to do a week long internship over Spring Break. This was such a great opportunity for me that I don’t know how exactly to describe it.
My break was spent at Mackey Mitchell Architects in St. Louis, Missouri. MMA is a firm that I have visited in the past through a personal visit to the firm and a firm crawl that the SIU chapter of American Institute of Architecture Students hosted. During the previous visits MMA had made a huge impression on me. The culture of their studio is friendly, optimistic, and collaborative. There is a sense of professionalism and formality without an overbearing feeling of constraint by either facet; it feels like a small firm with every capability of a large (corporate) one. It feels like a family. This office has the feeling of the type of firm I would want to work for. These are the type of people I would want to work for.
I think that is it, the type of people you would want to work for. Almost everyone I spoke to told me what Gene Mackey III told me, know what you want from your education and your career and if you don’t see it where you are then move. There are opportunities around you all the time. Every experience in life is an opportunity for growth. That is one thing I learned from the people at MMA. The people I got to know and make friends with in that very short week reminded me that architects are optimists. We seek opportunity and dream about what can be. Not what could be but what can be. The people at MMA were inspiring. That is what I mean by the type of people I want to work for and with, people who inspire me. Everyone in the firm had some type of helpful advice for me in my moving forward in my career. I learned more than one post can entail.
I read in the AIASTL 20 Fellows book (free from the AIASTL office) Gene Mackey’s entry. He quotes his dad at one point saying, “…you will never know the result of your effort if you don’t finish It and submit.” I feel that this is a good thing to take away. Always learn what you can produce. Learn from your success and from your failure. The first time I tried to work at MMA for an externship they turned me away but I tried again and had the opportunity to learn from a firm that had an impact on me. Find a firm and people that allow you to do what you want to do and inspire you. That is my advice to you, reader. And I leave you with the closing statement of Gene Mackey, “What is next? How can we respond? That is exciting to consider.”

Jacob Rose (SIU senior), Gene Mackey III (Mackey Mitchell Architects), and I at MMA in St. Louis for extern week.

Traditional Newari houses of Kathmandu Valley- Part 1

By Sabin Chakradhar

‘Newars’ are the indigenous people of Kathmandu valley, Nepal. They ruled the valley and surrounding territories known as former Newar kingdom of ‘Nepal Mandala’ until they were defeated by the Gorkha Kingdom in 1768. The traditional Newari building of the valley has some unique styles and features marked by striking brick work and a unique style of wood carving rarely seen outside of Nepal. The traditional Newari building is the outcome of centuries of optimization in materials and technique, a design ideal for its climate.
Newari architecture represents the timelessness of Nepalese history and architecture. It has definite characteristics in practice that are often guided by religious and socio-cultural norms. Traditional Newari cities are generally based on the grid iron pattern with series of row housings with narrow streets: so narrow that the single car can hardly pass through. Each of these narrow streets lead to an open courtyard where you can see people engaged in their daily activities like drying the rice, making pottery, carving the wooden windows etc. These courtyards are also used to perform different ceremonial activities and celebrate different festivals.
Currently, mass migration into the Kathmandu Valley has resulted in the Newars becoming a minority in their homeland and the city as of now is an odd combination of traditionalism and modernity. The age old tiered temples and squares, the mainstay of traditional Newari architecture, are challenged by tall concrete buildings and glass facade complexes. The Kathmandu city is slowly losing its historical fabric because of the haphazard growth in population and unplanned development.  Since, construction of the building in traditional Newari style is more expensive than constructing it in modern style; people are more attracted towards the modern style nowadays and the once brilliant and famous building technologies of Newari people are now on the verge of extinction. 

The Public Rest House

By Chhanya Nidal

Public space plays a significant role in people’s everyday life. Indeed, it is intertwined with daily life and is a place for social interaction and integration. In the traditional settlement of Kathmandu valley, the public rest house is the common type of building to all towns and villages.
The public rest house commonly named as Dharmashala is also known with different names like Mandap, Sattal, Pati, or Chapat. The traditional Nepali rest house is one of the element of urban interest. The general term Dharmashala is applicable to all types of rest houses and is free of charge to all the travelers. One can see the rest houses in the traditional settlement, durbar squares, pilgrimage sites, temples, sacred bathing places. The earlier use of these rest houses were to provide shelter for pilgrims and the travelers. They were generally donated by wealthy person, religious groups, families or society who bear the responsible of its construction and maintenance.
The first reference to Nepali public rest house dates back to the Lichhavi period. The public rest houses are built with different shapes and sizes however their appearance has not been changed a lot.
The Mandap kind of rest house is a covered square pavilion built on a raised platform with open sides. This facilitates as a community hall or for larger gatherings.

Pati is a more specific term that refers to the smallest and widely found rest house which also has similar function. It is built in a raised platform especially with three sides open with a wall on back. This is either freestanding or attached to any existing structure or residential house. Besides providing shelter, the Patis are closely interwoven with Newari society. This is an important aspect of their living neighborhood and is used as meeting place, reading local newspaper, social and religious gathering. They are the most common type of rest houses found in Kathmandu valley. They are not only found in settlements but also built throughout countryside near road, paths, or near public water fountain, rivers or streams as well as by the side of temples and shrines.

Sattal is another public rest house which vary with height and the number of storeys. It may be two storey, Sattal of Mandap type or of house type. Unlike the Pati, Sattal have been built not only for the traveler but also for the spiritual master (Guru or Sadhu) for temporary stay.

Chapat is another kind of rest house whose original function remains unclear. Rather than a public rest space for traveler, Chapat acts as a community hall for particular group of people for different festivals, dance and drama.

All these public rest houses are built with similar function with similar appearance using local architecture and vernacular constructions materials and techniques. The widely used material are local bricks and wood or timber with carvings on the post, lintels and struts.

The traditional architecture of Kathmandu Valley by Wolfgang Korn
Fig: Laxmi Narayan Sattal:
Fig: Pati: taken during visit