“Settling in Nepal as an expat was made easy after finding a beautiful, cozy house on the hills of Bhaisepatti. It became my small oasis at the suburbs of Kathmandu over viewing the valley with the Himalayas at the horizon. The complete tasteful interior was inviting to stay and enjoy the days in a friendly environment.”
Juergen Stadel, EC Co-Director
Jeevan K. Acharya has been dealing in the finest of spirits and wines for quite some time. No wonder he is a man of fine taste. It is no surprise that he wished to build a house that would live up to his high standards. Not satisfied with just his big mansion- like home on a choice location up on Bhainsepati Heights, one fine day in 1997, Jeevan decided to make the house of his dreams as an annex to his existing home.
PLANNING & CONSTRUCTION
He decided that the new house he wished to build would genuinely reflect traditional Nepali architecture on the outside, while the interiors would live up to international standards as far as comfort and convenience were concerned. And as he recalls, “It was planned to be cost effective without compromising on my vision.” To ensure this, Jeevan commissioned the well-known architect and close friend, Surya Bhakta Saangache, who today heads the Government’s Urban Development Department, to help him fulfill his dream. No doubt, as the result shows, he could not have found a better man for the job.
Construction started sometime in 1997 on about half a ropani of land on the premises of his existing home. Jeevan says, “I wanted this house to be a real Nepali home. You know, I wanted it to be typically Nepali with things like low ceilings and less ventilation, besides other characteristics.” He adds, “At the same time, I did not want the interiors to be lacking in any of the modern conveniences.”
During the making of his dream house, Jeevan remembers visiting Bhaktapur scores of times with his wife Sunita in search of authentic building material for the exteriors. In fact, Bhaktapur was the prime source of most of the traditional accouterments like ‘dachi appa’ bricks and wooden windows that have been used extensively on the outside. To ensure authenticity, Jeevan and Sunita took pains to acquire traditional wood carved windows that were quite old and looked original. “Some of the windows had to be repaired and the job was carried out by master craftsmen at Bungamati. It took them almost a year to repair some of them.” Of course this meant paying a bigger price sometimes, which they did.
However, Jeevan insists, "I had always planned this house to be cost effective." So, one of the ideas that his imaginative mind came up with, was the use of wood from the wheels that are used to transport electric cables, which he bought at scrap value. They were used as floor planking as well as for wall paneling. "The wood was seasoned and came cheap. All the floors and wall panels have been done using such cable wheel wood." As far as labor was concerned, Jeevan took care to see to it that authentic masons as well as carpenters with good knowledge of Nepali craft were hired. Most of these laborers thus hired were from Patan. The cost of the finished house was far below expectations, much lower than what one would imagine.
A brass plaque near the front door reads, '1999'. That was the year when the house was finally completed and even looking at it from the outside one can say that the price was worth paying. Jeevan can justifiably feel proud at what he has achieved. A small portico leads into the first floor that has two bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a small but comfortable office near the stairs and a spacious living room in another corner. One can see much wrought iron fixtures and furniture in all the rooms. Furnishings include handloom curtains that have been block printed with traditional motifs. Neatly placed aluminum sliding windows on the inside with, of course, traditional carved wooden ones on the opposite side, ensures adequate natural lighting everywhere. Among other things, modern amenities include air conditioning and bathrooms with lavish fixtures and fittings.
Wood covered steps lead up to the first floor, where one comes across another bedroom on the east side with an attached bathroom, a well equipped kitchen opening out onto an elevated dining area, and a veranda adjacent to it. The bedroom on this floor is distinctive in that it has a sloped roof with rafters and a rectangular window in an alcove like setting to catch the sun on the south side. This is of course, besides another window on the eastern side, right above the bed. One certainly gets the impression that this bedroom must be a warm and comfortable place to sleep in. Next to the dining area, one will observe a large cabinet that when opened, reveals capacious space for large equipage like refrigerators. The veranda is a virtual treat for nature lovers, as one can have a splendid view of the valley from here.
One climbs real wooden stairs (as opposed to wood covered ones) when reaching the top floor. Here, one will find the laundry room and next to it, the sun deck alongside the solar panels. The view from here is obviously much more far-reaching than from the second floor. One can easily make out Sundhara from the sun deck along with most of the valley. And one can expect a well-done tan after spending a few hours sunning on the wooden deck.
Jeevan reveals, "I have let out this house to expatriates since the time it was built. Foreigners immediately fall in love with the place at first sight." The first tenant to reside in the house was a Danish gentleman who worked at the BPEP project. The next was Juergen Stadel, a German who says, "Settling in Nepal as an expat was made easy after finding this beautiful, cozy house on the hills of Bhaisepatti. It became my small oasis at the suburbs of Kathmandu over viewing the valley with the Himalayas at the horizon. The complete tasteful interior was inviting to stay and enjoy the days in a friendly environment."
Jeevan does not forget to credit the people who made it possible. "I couldn't have done it without people like architect Surya Bhakta Saangache, 'Thekedar' Ramdhoj Bohra and the laborers from Patan as well as those craftsmen in Bungamati." Jeevan, no doubt, must get a feeling of deep satisfaction every morning when he walks out of his house and sees his dream house right in front of it, reflecting traditional Nepalese architecture as he wanted it to. He lives in his other house within the same compound.
Jeevan Acharya says, "Sunita and I decided to buy a dilapidated house in Bhaktapur, so that we could use the traditional windows, bricks, 'tundals', cornices, etc. while building this house." Sangachhe would like others to emulate Jeevan and build such traditional homes as this would be the right step towards preservation of traditional architecture in the valley. On the other hand, it would also ensure more work and continued economical progress for local masons and craftsmen. Jeevan would like people to know that such beautiful and comfortable houses can also be built economically. There is no doubt that Jeevan's dream has been turned into reality by the renowned architect Surya Bahkta Sangachhe. In fact, he has not only delighted the owner, but also put on display, this grand monument of Newari architecture for all to see.
"I was lucky to get the services of a well known architect like Sanga-chhe," says Jeevan. "Actually when I decided to go ahead with construction of a traditional house, I first went to a brickmaker who made traditional bricks. He introduced me to Randhoj Bohra, the 'Thekedar' who informed me about the labor available with the necessary skills. The main laborer, who was an expert in renovation works, had worked for Sangachhe and this was how I met the famous architect. This was how the team was organized."
All said, the team has, under the able leadership of Sangachhe, brought Jeevan and Sunita's vision into life and done the country a service by setting an excellent example of traditional Newari architecture that perhaps many others will hopefully emulate in the days to come.
This important collection of photographs evokes a forgotten era when the Kathmandu...