In India, some indigenous building practices have changed or weakened over time while others have remained largely intact until recently. One such place where indigenous building practices still survive mostly unchanged is in the land of the Gods – the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. This is a research project on the indigenous building technique called the kath-khuni construction prevalent in this region. This local construction method reflects excellent sustainable and earthquake-resistant building techniques using local materials and human resources.
The research is a collaborative project and was initiated in 2011 between researchers based in DICRC (Design Innovation and Craft Resource Center) in the Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India and in CRIDA (Critical Research in Digital Architecture) in the Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, The University of Melbourne, Australia. The project was supported in part by the Australia India Institute based at the University of Melbourne.
This project was part of a planned series of research and documentation activities to disseminate knowledge about indigenous building practices and heritage of India. This research has resulted in the book ‘Prathaa: Kath-khuni architecture of Himachal Pradesh’ co-authored by Bharat Dave, Jay Thakkar and Mansi Shah, various papers and articles and exhibitions in India and Australia.
This research project was recognized by the International Zumtobel Group Award 2012 for Humanity and Sustainability in the Built Environment in the Research and Special Initiatives category with an honorable mention and prize.
Partners and Collaborators:
CRIDA (Critical Research in Digital Architecture) in the Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Australia India Institute (AII), Australia and India
Impact of the Project:
The indigenous building traditions such as kath-khuni construction now face gradual erosion due to the increasing loss of local building skills and knowledge, and displacement of local natural building materials with a growing influx of non-indigenous ones that may be cheaper initially but turn out more expensive in the long run. This project helped in preserving and sustaining kath-khuni building techniques and local skills through a detailed research on existing and emerging building practices. The project has also helped various individuals to conduct their research on the kath-khuni Building practices (for example - Rahul Bhushan, Marloes Lisa van der Zanden, Lorenzo Cocchi, etc). The information generated from the research became a base for further study conducted by "AREA - Atelier for Resilient Environmental Architecture" from TU Delft and Resilient Himalayan Home, IIT Roorkee.