Young architects help rebuild Nepal

City-based architect Rohan Patankar visited Nepal for a work trip in July 2014. There, he made great friends with his colleagues and also ended up keeping an elaborate travel diary with drawings and text about the things he saw and experienced. But less than a year later, on April 25, the Himalayan country was rocked by a massive earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, killing thousands and rendering an equal number of people homeless.

“After the earthquake I simply wanted to help out my friends in any way possible. After I learnt that they had begun volunteering for reconstruction work in remote villages, I was convinced that raising some funds for their work would be useful. I realised that I had spreads from my travel diary that I could scan and make limited edition art prints and postcards. Thus came together ‘Art for Nepal’ - a fundraiser to help build transitional homes in rural Nepal, in May,” he tells Metrolife.

The initiative consists of limited edition hand-stamped and signed art prints, sets of postcards and notebooks. Each art print is priced at (INR) Rs 1,500, set of five postcards is Rs 1,000 and each notebook is for Rs 500.

Twenty-five old Patankar adds that the project got a boost once they launched the notebooks, and says the idea came from his architect friends based in Hyderabad and Chennai, Sarojini Dantapalli and Lakshmi Nair, who were anyway meaning to do a fundraiser for the same cause independently before they decided to collaborate under ‘Art for Nepal’.

“While the three of us contributed artworks for the notebook, Sarojini and Lakshmi designed the product and these were produced in Chennai by Lakshmi. It was overwhelming to see the response the notebooks got. It made me very happy that with the notebooks, the project grew to become a collective entity that was larger than my work,” he says.

Patankar, who was in Nepal for two weeks, tells Metrolife that the project he had gone for was in collaboration with Kathmandu-based Sustainable Mountain Architecture (SMA). “I was living in Jawalakhel, working in Sanepa, and would go out to places after work or on weekends. I visited the Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur and cycled my way up to Kirtipur and Taudaha on a weekend,” he says.

The proceeds from the sale of the prints, postcards and notebooks has reached about Rs 1,20,000 and is funding the construction of transitional shelters by the SMA Studio team in rural Nepal. “Constructed with locally sourced labourers and help from the family members, these homes are made in stone, earth and wood salvaged from the earthquake rubble along with new bamboo, thatch and metal sheets. They are not temporary like post-disaster relief tents, but are designed to last for more than a few years as the families transition to more stable lives,” he says.

Sharing details, he says that after a few prototypes, in August 2015, the first set of the transitional homes got completed in Panauti village, near Banepa, two hours from Kathmandu. This model home was built for Mrs Januka Devi Sapkota’s family of five on the same site where they had lost their old home to the earthquake.

“Two such shelters have been completed. And the present funds will support the construction of another four homes. Architects and engineers from SMA team have been travelling to relatively remote locations in Nepal to identify small villages where funding or relief resources haven't reached yet. And then the decision of building there is taken,” he says.

Though he has not visited Nepal since then, Patankar says the trio plans to visit in a few months to help in the next phase of building of transitional homes. “I also want to go back to the places I went to and draw/photograph what they look like now. That would complete the circle one more step,” he says.

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