When the shaking stops: an evaluation of post-earthquake heritage rehabilitation in Hanuman Dhoka’s Durbar Square

The Gorkha Earthquake that struck central Nepal on 25th April 2015 caused extensive damage to the historic centre of Kathmandu, much of which is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main palace that houses Hanuman Dhoka’s Palace Museum, as well as numerous temples and traditional Sattals (rest houses) or pavilions, were damaged or destroyed. In many LDC contexts like in Kathmandu, post-earthquake rehabilitation is dependent on the resilience of the communities, and their successful interaction with policy makers, engineers and architects. Largely undocumented, Kathmandu’s own rehabilitation process has been diverse and uncoordinated; local knowledge bearers, including artisans, priests and caretakers of the monuments have often been side-lined or excluded from scientific designs. The hypothesis of this thesis is that monuments should not simply be reconstructed but rehabilitated along with the renewal of their linkages, and functions, to their communities. The post-earthquake rehabilitation of the monuments in Hanuman Dhoka’s Durbar Square is being addressed through very different processes. Some are tendered out to contractors, others implemented bilaterally through international organizations and some conducted by local community-based committees. As noted above, however, successful implementation depends on the degree to which bearers of indigenous knowledge with other authorities are brought together. Currently, the gulf between traditional technology and materials, and modern engineering needs to be bridged to fulfil the legal requirements set through building codes and structural requirements. The approach and language of traditional artisans and modern engineering specialists needs to be translated for both communities to allow communication and finding a means of working together.

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