Down to Earth - - LIFE­STYLE -

THE CAM­PUS of Ladakh Arts and Me­dia Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( lamo) at the foot of the 17th cen­tury Leh Palace has been de­vel­oped through care­ful restora­tion of two his­tor­i­cal build­ings in Leh— Mun­shi House and Gyaoo House, which date back to the 17th cen­tury. When lamo adopted the build­ings, the three-storey Mun­shi House re­quired im­me­di­ate restora­tion, and Gyaoo House had been re­duced to a garbage dump. It took about four years be­fore the twin build­ings were ready to func­tion as art spa­ces with gal­leries, of­fices, li­brary, read­ing rooms, screen­ing room, con­fer­ence room, and an open-air per­for­mance site.

The south-fac­ing balconies, court­yards and other rooms of the Mun­shi House have been care­fully re­stored by crafts­men from Doda dis­trict, renowned for their ex­per­tise in old con­struc­tion tech­niques. They re­cov­ered stones from fallen walls and used them to build the base of the li­brary and new walls. To match with the old bricks, they pre­pared bricks us­ing earth from the site, river sand, chopped straw and yak dung from old sta­bles. The bricks were then left to dry for two weeks.

Gyaoo House was re­built by lay­ing con­ven- tional bricks and stones with mud mor­tar. Ya­mang (slate), brought from nearby Chill­ing vil­lage, were cut into thin pieces and used for the cop­ings (a curved slop­ing that acts as pro­tec­tive layer) of the roof para­pets, whereas the larger pieces were used for floor­ing. Sec­tions of wood from bro­ken beams were sal­vaged and reused, while the rest were brought from Kash­mir val­ley.

But this was not a stan­dard restora­tion ex­er­cise, and the build­ings had to be retro­fit­ted for con­tem­po­rary times and chang­ing rain pat­tern. Dou­ble win­dows were fit­ted wher­ever pos­si­ble in the new build­ings for ther­mal in­su­la­tion. A new rab­sal (bal­cony) was added to Gyaoo House. Glazed ex­ten­sion was pro­vided so that it traps heat from the sun in win­ter. Bi­tu­mi­nous roof­ing felt was laid around roof edges and built into the brick para­pet walls as a waterproofing mem­brane at the weak­est point in the tra­di­tional flat earth roof.

All these in­no­va­tions have al­lowed lamo to or­gan­ise work­shops, ex­hi­bi­tions, film screen­ings even dur­ing peak win­ter months with­out any need for heat­ing the room. These ex­am­ples are from an up­com­ing book on green build­ings by the Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment

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