Lecture Series

IMAP Lecture 7 by Sudarshan Raj Tiwari

IMAP Lecture 7 by Sudarshan Raj Tiwari

Sudarshan Raj Tiwari
Public Urban Spaces of Traditional Kathmandu Valley Towns: A Socio-cultural Perspective

It is usual for civilisations to locate and develop towns at crossings —crossing of roads, economic activities, societies, traditions and cultures, ideas, and thoughts. Towns are characterised by heterogeneity, diversity and density and civilisations seek urban comfort in living in these conditions. If we see urban spaces as spaces structured by buildings and made by us for our partaking of life in it, the complexity of urban living is expressed nowhere in the town more than in its public spaces—more so if the civilisation is built around outdoor community living such as in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Valley’s past streets and squares are remarkable examples of socio-cultural civility—a novel mix of graded publicness, on the one hand, and territorial identity, ownership and patronage on the other.

This lecture seeks to explore the design and use of these spaces from a socio-cultural perspective of traditional urbanism. In recent times, these public urban spaces of the Kathmandu Valley have been facing new challenges, one of which is the fast building-up of socio-cultural diversities both in pace and scale in the ever-decreasing public space. What additional demands on the public space are being created by society when private space is in short supply? How are the original society, the new society and the public space coping with each other? What is there in these public urban spaces that may save the loss of society from perceived exclusion or intrusion? The lecture will seek to raise and discuss issues and possibilities in such questions based on a socio-cultural study of the traditional urban spaces.

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Born at Bishalnagar in Kathmandu in 1950, Sudarshan Raj Tiwari studied architecture and earned Bachelor’s degree from School of Planning and Architecture, University of Delhi, in 1973. He took his Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Hawaii, USA in 1977, specialising on housing in tropical countries. His interest drew him to the study of Nepali historical architecture, urbanism and culture, which led to a PhD from Tribhuvan University for his dissertation on ancient settlements of the Kathmandu Valley in 1995.

He has served in the faculty of Tribhuvan University’s Institute of Engineering Department of Architecture for almost 40 years, and was Dean of the Institute of Engineering between 1988 and 1992. Among his published works are: The Brick and the Bull: An account of Handigaun, the ancient capital of Nepal (2001) and Temples of Nepal Valley (2009). He is working on a book on Bhaktapur at present.

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