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Patan: Reading Urban form in Cultural Landscape

The hill valley settlement phenomenonPatan town islocated in the Kathmandu valley in Nepal, south of the bend of river Bagmati in geographical setting that can be described as valley and moderate hilly condition. See figure 1, which shows the location of the Patan town with respect to the topography conditions and surrounding water bodies. Patan town is a characterized by Durbar square nearly at the center of the town, numerous temples, viharas, public places in form of open squares, water fountains, Pati (semi covered shelter), Stupa and Chaitya. Traditional houses in wood and brick are linear with double bays running parallel along the street and gable part of the house joining with the next. The houses are about always organized around a shared courtyard. The courtyards often connect with each other and also serve as primary movement spaces. Patan has had layers of history with written records, sculpture and fragmentary architectural remains scattered throughout the city attest to the Licchavi period settlement (Slusser 1997: 96). The main settlement was concentrated around the Durbar square and Mangal bazaar area. During the Malla period it was a city-state, which competed with Kathamandu and Bhaktapur. Patan has been a predominantly Buddhist town with about 150 viharas.


To better understand the form of the Patan town it might be worthwhile to also look at generic patterns of the settlement in the surrounding areas. The settlements in the Himalayas in general and for most hill settlements have developed a certain pattern in countering and using the natural resources to ones advantage. This is obvious if one were to observe how communities have used topography, water resources and forest produce to ones advantage over centuries. The settlement patterns seen in this part is also a result of such an attitude towards natural landscape. On closely observing settlement patterns in and around Kathmandu valley, the following key physical attributes can be observed

A study of Urban Form and Public Places in Nepal


Pratyush Shankar, 2014



"...Observing the settlement and the topography at a larger scale it becomes clear that the main core lies on the ridge like condition. This again is a natural response that is prevalent in the area as observed earlier in the settlements in the valley. According to Slusser (1998: 97), the Licchavi occupation was concentrated around the Patan Durban square area with smaller villages or towns present around it, which were eventually absorbed in the city..."

"...It is very clear that the movement routes are a direct response to the topographical condition on the eastern edge of the town as all of them run parallel to the valley conditions that are formed parallel to the movement of surface water. (Which has been marked by cyan in figure 8). This is the typical negotiation of the surface water stream that we have observed in many other smaller settlements in the valley. These movement connectors run parallel to the surface water streams that run across to the agriculture fields around the valley part of the slopes. This is the one of the system that influences the form of the city as it guides the space..."

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