Is there something like a Himalayan City?

Cities are the storehouse of culture, history, and institutions. Today, they represent places where people derive their socio-cultural identities; they also provide opportunities for everyone. An outright rejection or ignorance of the vernacular, colonial, and modern history of our cities is bound to lead to development but with unsuitable results.

This research looks at key characteristics of the overall urban form and public places of cities in Nepal. It presents information on the morphological uniqueness of Himalayan cities. These cities have always been the melting pot of many cultures, ideology, and practices. They have also evolved some of the most architecturally sophisticated built environment. This environment is not only suitable to the area’s climate and socio-cultural demands; it is also the most environmentally sustainable. We need to systematically deconstruct the vernacular traditions of city building from the perspective of urban design and architecture. Such a study gives us a broader perspective on the issue of Himalayan built-form tradition, cutting across national boundaries.

The cities studied represent two different scales: settlement pattern and public places. The response of settlement patterns to climate and topography is something that could be of immense interest in understanding cities. The four main cities used in this case study are Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Mustang, and Manang. The first two are settlements situated in the Newar valley. They are very refined examples, from the point of view of understanding the role of social structure and religious practice on urban form. Mustang and Manang are relatively smaller but well formed settlements, situated in mid-western Nepal. They are important for understanding the role of political economy (ancient trade) and climate on urban form.

A study of Urban Form and Public Places in Nepal

Article

Pratyush Shankar, 2014

ABSTRACT

EXCERPTS

"...first clue that helps explain the form of the residential cluster seems to come from the monastery itself. One can safely assume that existence of monastery as an institution in some form or other predates the origin of much of Patan town. The architecture of the monastery offers interesting possibilities from the point of view of replicability and diffusion of ideas about space..."

-The house as a window to the city,  A study of Urban Form and Public Places in Nepal

"...The study allows us to understand the evolution of urban form in the Himalayas by correlating its nature with the cultural geography of the place. It became clear through various analyses that natural surface flow of water becomes the basis for locating and organizing city structure. The water flow becomes a basis for reading topography by the community..."