Unsettling modernity: Shifting values and changing housing styles in the Kathmandu Valley

Vibha Bhattarai Upadhaya, Urmi Sengupta

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Culture has always been important for the character of the cities, as have the civic and public institutions that sustain a lifestyle and provide an identity. Substantial evidence of the unique historical, urban civilisation remains within the traditional settlements in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal; manifested in houses, palaces, temples, rest houses, open spaces, festivals, rituals, customs and cultural institutions. Indigenous knowledge and practices prescribed the arrangement of houses, roads and urban spaces giving the city a distinctive physical form, character and a unique oriental nativeness. In technical sense, these societies did not have written rules for guiding development. In recent decades, the urban culture of the city has been changing with the forces of urbanisation and globalisation and the demand for new buildings and spaces. New residential design is increasingly dominated by distinctive patterns of Western suburban ideal comprising detached or semi-detached homes and high rise tower blocks. This architectural iconoclasm can be construed as a rather crude response to the indigenous culture and built form. The paper attempts to dismantle the current tension between traditional and contemporary ‘culture’ (and hence society) and housing (or built form) in the Kathmandu Valley by engaging in a discussion that cuts across space, time and meaning of architecture as we know it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalOpen House International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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