The Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, is home to a distinctive and beautiful form of traditional earthen architecture.
Over the past decade, however, this eco-friendly tradition has become an endangered species, as increasing numbers of Kangra residents are swept into the ill-advised trend of building their homes and businesses with the toxic combination of baked bricks and cement. Very few people living today in Himachal Pradesh (and, indeed, all of India) possess knowledge of either the skill sets of the local vernacular architectural tradition or the facts and philosophies that underly it.
To address this crisis and preserve these precious sustainable living traditions of the Kangra District, the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir (a project of the Earthville Network), in partnership with venerated earthen architect Didi Contractor, is launching the Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture. The internship is a formal, academically-supervised service-learning program designed to provide architects (and students of architecture) with both practical experience and deeper theoretical knowledge in the arts and practices of sustainable building, with an emphasis on the Kangra style of vernacular architecture as expressed in the neo-traditional approach of Didi Contractor.
Didi Contractor and the Genesis of the Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture
The neotraditional buildings designed by Didi Contractor have garnered acclaim across India and around the world for their aesthetic beauty, innovative applications of traditional materials and methods, safety enhancements, and harmony with the sites where they are built.
Now 83 years of age, Ms. Contractor wishes to pass her knowledge on to others and to support the next generation of architects to deepen their understanding of the art and practices of sustainable architecture and of the social and ecological context in which the work of the architect takes place.
Many architects and students of architecture seek opportunities to gain practical experience and theoretical knowledge by working under her guidance. Due to her demanding schedule and her health, however, her time for work with interns is very limited, so she has chosen to collaborate with the Dharmalaya Institute to offer a formal internship program.
About the Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture
Through this internship, interns will have the opportunity to gain practical experience working with trained green builders on one or more sites in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. Initial training and work will be done at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir, and for longer-term interns there will be opportunities to work at other sites in the area as well. Didi Contractor will monitor the program and will meet with the interns a few times a month or as circumstances allow.
The Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture is open to current or past students of architecture (of all ages and backgrounds) who wish to deepen their practical and theoretical understanding of vernacular earthen architecture by making a serious commitment to a rigorous programme of hands-on work and experiential learning in a real-world environment.
Ms. Contractor and the Dharmalaya faculty hope that this programme will make a small but valuable contribution toward preserving the vernacular architecture of the Himalayas and promoting a resurgence of interest in earthen building in India and beyond.
For more information on the Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture at the Dharmalaya Institute, see http://dharmalaya.in/architecture-internship/.