Alternative Methods for Preservation of Traditional Newari Homes

Image of a destroyed home in Nepal-Photo by Sadi Dhakhwa, January 2018.

Photo by Sadi Dhakhwa, January 2018

In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The earthquake left 9,000 people dead, injured over 21,000 people, and left millions homeless. 

The earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks caused damage to many buildings, including historic sites, temples, and residential buildings. The impact of this quake was devastating, affecting the urban centers of Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, and the surrounding settlements. Many sought refuge outside in temporary structures made out of tarpaulins on open fields. Those who lost their homes settled into temporary corrugated tin metal sheet housing. These temporary structures exist today, two years after the earthquake, with little progress made toward long-term housing. Many Nepalese returned to their homes, despite the damage and risk of imminent collapse – homeowners use makeshift bracing made out of wood or metal scaffolding to hold their homes together, a technique that does little to support the weight of the structure and places the residents of the house and the public at risk.

While the earthquake destroyed traditional masonry structures in the Kathmandu Valley, newer reinforced concrete buildings stood resilient. As a result, new construction replacing the traditional Newari homes utilizes reinforced concrete and brick infills. However, these methods do not adequately address earthquake resilience; case studies in different parts of the world have demonstrated that concrete buildings do not necessarily decrease death tolls.

In Nepal, Sadi Dhakhwa, a graduate student of architecture investigated the damaged traditional Newari housing around the Kathmandu Valley. She visited sites largely affected by the earthquake to examine and document the reconstruction process and other renovation efforts. She also conducted informal interviews with preservation experts tasked with the restoration of heritage sites and other organizations working in the aftermath of the quake. Her thesis aims to identify renovation solutions using traditional materials that are culturally resonant and resilient to earthquakes.

Written by Jessica Scates

  • Student(s): 
    Sadi Dhakhwa (Architecture)
  • Faculty Mentor: 
    Korydon Smith (Architecture)
  • Country of Travel: 
  • Dates of Travel: 
    January 2018 


Images of post-earthquake construction in Napel