Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Use of street and the roof in traditional town in Nepal

By Chhanya Nidal

I was excited from the beginning to take the class Arc 532, which is about Global architecture, especially the architecture beyond the tradition of western civilization. It’s been more than five weeks and the class is going more interesting to learn about the primitive, vernacular as well as cultural approach to the architecture of different societies, region and country.
Lectures are delivered by course Instructor, Prof Jon Davey based on his experience and architectural travel study to different culture. It is more interesting when it comes something about your culture, town, or country. Several topics have been included from different parts of Nepal. Last week we have been reading and learning about the use of the street and roof in Nepal from the book ‘Traditions in Architecture’ by Dora P. Crouch and June G. Johnson.

It is so true that the traditional daily life involves not only the house but also the space adjacent to and the top of the house itself too. Many people extend their domestic life on to the roof and the street. The roof not only provide the canopy but are also the part of daily life and chores.

Three or four story houses share the common wall and line the narrow street with a communal courtyard inside. In Newari residents of Kathmandu valley, the roofs, rooftop porches and the street really have an important function in the daily lives. Most of the people spend their live outdoor, especially in the winter people take the full advantage of the sun. Roof becomes the gathering place in winter where family members spend time together. They use their roof for different purposes like dining, sunbathing, washing clothes, baby bath and oiling, drying clothes and food. Since house are close enough to neighbor, the interaction takes place from roof to roof.

Likewise, the streets have the functional and symbolic importance. There is a bustle of activities that take place in the street of the towns. Duck, hen, dog, cow are seen searching for their food, the street are homes to goats and sheep and playground for children. Old people sit outside their doorways by the edge of the street chatting and discussing politics. Women weave and knit, sometimes they dry their grains or spread red chili peppers to dry.

These streets and the plaza are the place to meet, gather and socialize. Most of the time, the public well or water fountain with rest house (pati or sattal) becomes the meeting place. Same street is used for selling local vegetables and fruits in the morning and evening.

Streets and plaza are embedded with temples and shrines for all kind of Hindu gods and Buddhist stupa. People worship the shrine and the temple while passing, on their way to school and work. The religious procession also follow the main street. Especially in street festivals and jatras, the Hindu god is carried on his chariot across the street of the town. Different feast and festivals are celebrated on street.

From daily social life to religious activities are carried from house to the street. The house, its adjacent spaces and the life of people are mutually well adapted.

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