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Project Profile


2005 Award of Merit

Ayuguthi Sattal

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Project Title: Ayuguthi Sattal

Location: Patan Darbar Square, Mangal Bazaar, Lalitpur Sub Metropolitan City, Nepal

Size: 100 square metres

Costs: US $ 32,760

Responsible Party: Department of Archaeology

Heritage Architect: Erich Theophile and Rohit Kumar Ranjitkar 

Contractor: Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust

Date of Completion: September 2002

Project Synopsis

Ayuguthi Sattal is a two-storey sattal (rest house) located on the northern edge of Patan Darbar Square which is part of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage site. According to folklore, Ayuguthi Sattal was built as a memorial to the younger brother of a princess. He died just before the annual Hindu festival of light, known as Tihar in Nepal. To keep her brother’s memory alive, the princess constructed Ayuguthi Sattal, calling it Ayu, which means “long life” in the Newari language. As a further act of homage, she endowed the building with one acre of land on which a ritual was to be performed each year during the festival. This tradition continues to this day.

A timber-framed structure in-filled with brick, Ayuguthi Sattal represents the architectural style of the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley and is a building form traditionally used by pilgrims and voyagers travelling through Nepal. Among the most noteworthy elements defining the architecture of the building is the presence of a variety of window styles, which together convey a strong sense of axial symmetry. As part of this arrangement, an upper-story san jhya (richly decorated triple-bay window) is placed above a three-bay arrangement in the open arcade on the ground floor.

The size of the building, its overall features and the style of carvings of the ground floor pillars point to an eighteenth century origin, but the building incorporates architectural components from other buildings and periods. Minor changes were made to the building following an earthquake in 1934, while an addition in 1974 further altered the original symmetry of the building.

Ayuguthi Sattal became the focus of a conservation effort by the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust in 1991. At the time, the historic structure was in a state of significant disrepair, with wet-rot from monsoon rains and termite damage as well as pervasive decay resulting from lack of maintenance. In 1999, Ayuguthi Sattal became the first building acquired by the government based on its cultural value. The effort to preserve the building, although ultimately successful, required nearly six years of litigation and witnessed the collapse of the structure in 1999 as a consequence of urgent repairs not being implemented. Following the collapse of the building, it was impossible to restore and refurbish the structure. Instead, the trust decided to reconstruct the building as it once stood, reinstating as many of the traditional architectural elements as possible and adding structural work and improved detail to convey a sense of the presumed original configuration of the sattal.

Conservation Approach

The reconstruction effort employed local artisans, including wood carvers, brick masons and plasterers, all of whom had received training in previous Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust restoration projects involving traditional Newari construction techniques and who were fully versed in the Patan building vocabulary.

The original foundations of Ayuguthi Sattal were in good condition and required no significant alterations. The masonry structure had to be reconstructed entirely, however. Masons carried out the work using the traditional three-layer technique. This consisted of a single-course thick outer façade, an inner bearing wall of common fired-brick, two layers thick, and a fill of brick fragments between the two.

For the interior structural system, the majority of timbers had to be replaced with new pine and salvaged wood, and were assembled much as they had been in the original structure. A few salvaged decorative elements were used, but the majority of these had to be replaced. Workers applied a treatment of diffusible borate preservative to all the wooden elements to prevent termite attack. They also inserted a 24-gauge (46 millimetre) copper-sheet damp-proof course at the base of the walls to avert rising damp. Another step to reduce moisture build-up in the interior was to leave the interior walls of the upper story un-plastered; on the lower walls traditional mudplaster, a mixture composed of grey sandy clay, cow dung and rice husks, was applied.

Altered significantly during the 1974 renovation, the replacement modernized roof had functioned poorly in draining rainwater. The reconstruction returned the roof to its original design, thus restoring the roof’s functionality. Traditional materials, such as timber for the supporting frames, mud for insulation and terracotta tiles, also assisted in returning the roof to its original character and appearance. To achieve greater structural stability, workers reinforced every third rafter with stainless steel rods. The strengthened roof helped to ensure stability in case of seismic events. Specialists also installed a waterproof lining to provide extra protection for the timbers. To prevent vegetal growth on the building’s exterior, masons added a herbicide to the mud mixture used in construction.

The building was seriously dilapidated and collapsed in 1999. The building was reconstructed using many local artisans such as wood carvers, brick masons and plasterers.

Conservation and the Community

Ayuguthi Sattal today still serves as a public space for religious worship and for maintaining the traditions of the Tihar festival, but now also functions as a “heritage awareness centre”. One of the principal functions of the centre is to provide information about the Patan and Nepalese cultures. The ground-floor exhibition space also serves to educate the community about safeguarding Nepal’s cultural heritage and has special exhibits for the various types of visitors: children, adults and tourists. The centre also presents the story of the architectural conservation of the building. In addition to the exhibits, the building itself serves as an example of preservation in the region and speaks to the possibility of further restorations of traditional Newari buildings in Kathmandu Valley.

Quote from the Project Team

“The reconstruction of the building maintains the historical spirit of its architectural evolution on the square. Moreover, the inclusion of several architectural elements from different periods maintains the unique character of the building.”