A brick tower in Bhaktapur, Nepal – brick designs from Frankfurt meet traditional Newar building methods

A group of 25 architecture students from the Frankfurt am Main University of Applied Technology, together with Prof. Wolfgang Rang, Frankfurt University of Applied Technology, and Prof. Dr. Niels Gutschow, from the Excellence Cluster “Asia and Europe” at the Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg, built a tower sculpture from clay bricks in Bhaktapur in 24 days.

1 Introduction

In Frankfurt in April 2008 the students designed clay bricks of different sizes and with different surface finishes and then modelled prototypes in loam. Thirteen of these models in loam, cardboard or wood were sent to Nepal in early May.

There a carpenter prepared models with which a brickmaker then produced around 3 600 green bricks, which dried in the weeks up to July. In mid-September, the last bricks were taken out of the kiln.

After the ritual laying of the foundation brick under the direction of a Brahman on 12 September, a tower sculpture was built, without any preplanning, course by course with the bricks designed in Frankfurt as well as 10 000 fired and another 10 000 unfired Nepalese standard bricks. On 3 October the topmost brick cornice was added so that two days later, a goat could be sacrificed in honour of the lintel beam and completion of the structure celebrated with a feast.

In the course of the construction of the tower, all steps necessary for the extraction and processing of the loam were experienced: the excavated earth is milled by treading it and transformed into mortar with the addition of sand, to be selectively thrown into the bed and settlement joints.

Fired bricks were laid in a double-leaf bond with air-dried green bricks under the instruction of Newar bricklayers. In the light of German construction processes and in respect of the energy balance, building with material found on site seems positively revolutionary. The encounter with the old city culture of the Newars from the Kathmandu Valley...

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