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Cities as Repository of Vernacular Traditions

The paper argues that the city with its spatial structure, rich representation and imagination is an important repositoryof vernacular traditions. The idea of a city as a cultural product is perhaps the most important over arching concept that has been deconstructed in the context of Himalayan region in the paper. The idea of a city as an anti‐thesis to the wild nature around but with a certain reference to the unique cultural landscape of the region has been elaborated upon through case studies. This overarching attitude to “nature” as reflected in the city form is perhaps the fundamental repository of vernacular tradition of space making that informs and influences the practices at all scale right down to the building and objects of daily use. The fundamental relationship with land and water gets very well expressed in spatial terms in regions like Himalayas and has an impact on how other material culture (including architecture) are conceived. The structure and form of the public places (commons) is perhaps the most immediate expression at human scale that embodies the traditional ideas of vernacular space making. The particular idea of public space, which is unique to the Himalayas, has been shown through drawings and analysis. The point being that public (community) spaces are the most important reference and embodiment of ideas of vernacular tradition of organizing space.This is demonstrated through the study of various Himalayan cities in India and Nepal like Leh, Mustang, Almora and Patan.

Himalayan Settlements of India and Nepal


ISVS‐66th International Seminar on Vernacular Settlements, Contemporary Vernaculars: Places, Processes and Manifestations,April 19‐21, 2012, Famagusta, North Cyprus



"...he surplus of one valley cannot be physically brought to another valley; it can only go down to other settlements in the same valley. So the city in a mountain is bound to a valley and a river. The valley both protects and restricts. The world beyond cannot be captured but the only way it can be understood is through trade..."

"...The open ground and the market are usually to be found at an important junction of the city; the place where the trade route (connection with the world beyond) meets the local movement system (immediate connection that are mediated mainly through water). The place where these two disparate systems of movement meet is often the place where in many medieval cities the palace complex building sits adjacent to the open ground. In most of the well‐formed cities, the palace and the open ground together complete the idea of the open public place..."

Pratyush Shankar, 2014

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