Nepal | August 05, 2020

Retrieving the value of destroyed heritage


Kai Weise
Share Now:


KATHMANDU: Where does the heritage value of the monuments and historical buildings lie? The value surely lies in the material of which it is constructed. It is not the material itself, but how the material has been used, crafted and assembled into a structure. The value lies in the wooden elements that play a prominent role in both the structure as well as the ornamentation. The value lies in the numerous forms of bricks which are plain, smooth or decorated, depending on the role they play. It could also be considered that the significance lies in the foundations which define the exact location, tying the structure to the earth and being consecrated accordingly. For religious buildings the value lies in the statue of the deity. The significance, however, also lies with the people who created, maintained, utilised and gave life to the monument.

If we want to build a structure that will last for over four thousand years, we need to take the pyramids as a model

So when a natural disaster destroys the monument and the pieces are scattered around the square, what happens to the value? Little bits of value must still lie in all the parts. So it becomes important to collect the parts. The wooden elements have been collected. In most cases the bricks have also been stacked nearby. There was however a frenzied drive to remove the remaining ‘debris’. So what would this debris have been composed of? It would have been interesting to study this, for what was considered ‘debris’ was also small parts of the same monument. Even these parts, possibly comprising of bricks bats, rotten and broken pieces of wood and the mud from the mortar, could have contributed in carrying some small fragments of the value. How-ever, without regulations or standard practice, the drive to clean up the sites of destruction led to a general assumption that this remainder material was waste and needed to be removed and disposed of.

Beyond the material elements that were salvaged, the foundations are a very important part of the historical building or monument. The choice of the location for temples and for palaces was carefully chosen taking into consideration geomantic and compositional parameters. The building was protected through specific rituals and by placing protective artefacts under the foundation stone. The foundations could be considered the roots from which even when the superstructure was damaged, it could be renewed. Clearly this system of renewal has been part of the cultural process of post earthquake restoration. This means the regenerative value of the structures lie in the foundations. With all the destroyed monuments, the foundations and in most cases the plinths have remained. This is the opportunity to research the plinths and foundations using archaeological techniques while ensuring that they remain intact.

As our understanding of monuments change from being exclusive masterpieces of high culture to components of a broader and more inclusive setting, the intangible or human dimension has to be given importance. This means that the value of a monument or historical structure also lies with the community or stakeholders. So when the pieces of the monument lie scattered across the square, the resilience of the structure depends on the motivation, need and ability of the community to rebuild or restore. Resilience must therefore not be taken only in engineering terms. If we want to build a structure that will last for over four thousand years, we need to take the pyramids as a model. This is of course very different from the monumental structures in the Kathmandu valley.

The graceful structures of filigree wooden and brick elements subjected to the seasonal weathering will
require constant maintenance and renewal and therefore the value lies in the will and ability to do so.
So where do we retrieve the value of the collapsed and damaged heritage structures? We must collect the pieces and using the will, motivation and craftsmanship of the community, re-establish the wonderful historic ensembles. We need to do this, because this is what has always been done.

(The author is an architect and can be contacted through

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 259 new cases, 65 recoveries, one fatality recorded today

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 406,494 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method have been carried out, w Read More...

Chief of Butwal's Revenue Investigation Office caught red-handed with bribe money

BHAIRAHAWA: A team deployed from the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) arrested Chief of Revenue Investigation Office, Vijaya Rana red-handed while taking bribe from a service seeker in Butwal, on Tuesday. According to Butwal CIAA Office's Communication Officer Suresh Bhus Read More...

India Coronavirus

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 18.35 million, death toll at 693,958

LONDON: More than 18.35 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 693,958​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 20 Read More...

Bihar Chief Minister recommends CBI probe into Sushant Singh Rajput's death

KATHMANDU: The Bihar government has decided to recommend a CBI inquiry into the death of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput, on request from his father KK Singh. According to PTI, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that he was informed by the Bihar Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey abo Read More...

Sunsari local level to reimpose lockdown following traces of community transmission of COVID-19

DHARAN: Following detection of community transmission of coronavirus-infection, local levels in Sunsari have reimposed lockdown restrictions in a bid to control further spread of the pandemic. District headquarters Inaruwa, Duhabi, Ramdhuni and Itahari Municipalities have taken a decision to this Read More...

Large blast in Beirut port area rocks Lebanon's capital, many people hurt

BEIRUT, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A large explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, injuring many people as glass shattered and balconies collapsed from the impact, Reuters witnesses said. Lebanon's state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are wa Read More...

After Nepal, Pakistan unveils new political map; Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh claimed, India retorts

KATHMANDU: On Tuesday, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan unveiled a new political map of the country including the territories of Jammu & Kashmir and parts of Ladakh. The 'event' unfolded a day ahead of the first anniversary of Indian government's decision to revoke article 370, which gua Read More...