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Architecture and Architechn: Buildingand Revealing in High-Caste NepaleseHousesJohn Gray aa University of AdelaideVersion of record first published: 07 Mar 2011.
To cite this article: John Gray (2011): Architecture and Architechn: Building and Revealing inHigh-Caste Nepalese Houses, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 34:1, 89-112
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00856401.2011.549086
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Architecture and Architechne: Building and
Revealing in High-Caste Nepalese Houses
University of Adelaide
AbstractIn this paper I identify the doubleness of domestic spacenot just asarchitecture, that is, the production of houses that expresses social reality,cultural meanings and/or cosmology, but also as architechne, that is, as theembodied experience, tacit knowledge and revelation produced by everydayliving in domestic space. This distinction provides the framework for analysingNepali houses as domestic mandalas. I argue that in the taken-for-granted,everyday use of domestic space as architechne, Nepalis engage in an embodiedbringing forth of their houses as an enframing whole, as a structure of revealingof the cosmos and the nature of their lifeworld as Householders.
Keywords: Architecture, architechne, Nepal, houses, cosmology, mandalas,lifeworld, Householders
The architecture of South Asia provides a rich source of evidence forRapoports generic hypothesis: what nally decides the form of a dwelling andmoulds the spaces and their relationships is the vision that people have of theideal life.1 Architectural space expresses culture. In Nepal and South Asia,built forms and their organisation of space express cosmology, ideology and/orsociality at all spatial scalesregion, city, temple and house. The KathmanduValley,2 the city of Bhaktapur,3 the Hindu temple4 and, as the following
1 Amos Rapoport, House Form and Culture (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1960), p.47.2 Mary Slusser, Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley (Princeton: Princeton University
Press. 1982).3 Neils Gutschow and B. Kolver, Ordered Space, Concepts and Functions in a Town in Nepal (Wiesbaden:
Franz Steiner, 1975).4 Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1976); and George Michell,
The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies,n.s., Vol.XXXIV, no.1, April 2011
ISSN 0085-6401 print; 1479-0270 online/11/010089-24 2011 South Asian Studies Association of AustraliaDOI: 10.1080/00856401.2011.549086
] at 1
account of the dwellings of high-caste Hindus in the Kathmandu Valley argues,the house,5 all manifest the cosmos by being spatially organised in the form of amandala. Domestic architecture may also express social reality rather than theideal life of cosmology. For example daily activities and social relations aremanifest in the houses of Muslims and Hindus in Nepal,6 and the ideology ofthe unequal distribution of power between castes and classes is articulated inthe spatial relations of Goan houses.7
All of these studies focus on one moment of architecturethe production offunctional and meaningful space. There is, however, another moment ofarchitecture that focuses on the embodied experience, tacit knowledge andrevelation produced by everyday living in domestic space. It is this moment ofarchitecture for which I use the term architechne.
Architechne combines two concepts. The prex archi refers to the practice ofarchitecture which produces space,8 creates boundaries out of otherwiseunbounded space,9 is the thoughtful making of spaces,10 and is integrallyidentied with human activity, experience and expression, for, in orderingspace, [it] also orders human action.11 It involves not just the provision ofshelter from the elements but the creation of a social and symbolic spaceaspace which both mirrors and moulds the world view of its creators andinhabitants.12 In all these denitions of architecture, the central idea is that thearchitectwhether professional, vernacular, indigenous or architecture without
5 Melinda Moore, The Kerala House as Hindu Cosmos, in M. Marriott (ed.), India through Hindu
Categories (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990); and Joyce Shepherd, Symbolic Space in Newar Culture,
unpublished PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1985.6 Marc Gaborieau, The Indo-Nepalese House in Central Nepal: Building Patterns, Social and Religious
Symbolism, in G. Ton (ed.), Man and His House in the Himalayas: Ecology of Nepal (New Delhi: Sterling
Publishers, 1991); and Veronique Bouillier, From the Fountain to the Fireplace: The Daily Itinerary in
Domestic Space among High Indo-Nepalese Castes, in G. Ton (ed.)Man and His House in the Himalayas:
Ecology of Nepal (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1991).7 Caroline Ifeka, Domestic Space as Ideology in Goa, India, in Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s.)
Vol.21, no.2 (1987), pp.3089.8 J. Till, Architecture in Space and Time, in C. Melhuish (ed.), Architecture and Anthropology. Architectural
Design Prole No. 124 (London: The Academy Group, 1996), p.9.9 Susan Kent Activity Areas and Architecture: An Interdisciplinary View of the Relationship Between Use of
Space and Domestic Built Environments, in Susan Kent (ed.), Domestic Architecture and the Use of Space:
An Interdisciplinary Cross-Cultural Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p.2.10 Louis Khan cited in Till, Architecture in Space and Time, p.9.11 Suzanne P. Blier, The Anatomy of Architecture: Ontology and Metaphor in Batammaliba Architectural
Expression (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p.2.12 Roxanna Waterson, The Living House: An Anthropology of Architecture in South-East Asia (Singapore:
Oxford University Press, 1991), p.xv.
90 SOUTH ASIA
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architects13makes space for human habitation. In the very production ofsuch space is the production of meaning of and for that space that expressescosmology, ideology and sociality.
Techne is a Greek word that, as Heidegger points out, is usually associatedwith the skills and activities of a craftsman in making something useful.14
However, for him the essence of techne is a bringing-forth (poiesis) intopresence through the human use of skills and activities something that ispossible and/or concealed. Techne it is a form of revealing and revealing is theessence of truth.
It [techne] reveals whatever does not bring itself forth and does notyet lie here before us . . . . Thus what is decisive in techne does notlie at all in making and manipulating nor in the using of means, butrather in the revealing . . . . It is as revealing, and not asmanufacturing, that techne is a bringing-forth.15
For Heidegger, truth is not a set of propositions, knowledge or statementsabout the ultimate nature of the world and the people and things that existwithin it. Instead the world is fundamentally a eld of possibilities in which theexistence and nature of phenomenathe people and things that exist for usare not given directly to our consciousness. Phenomena have only possibilitiesfor our experience of them; human thought and action bring certainpossibilities to consciousness. Which possibilities are brought forth dependsupon a historically and culturally specic whole or framework, from withinwhich entities appear in consciousness. This enframing whole is usually tacit,consisting of what is taken for granted by the humans who inhabit such aworld.16 From Heideggers perspective, then, truth is a structure of revealing toconsciousness certain of the worlds possibilities and, by implication, ofconcealing other possibilities.17 Techne refers to human action which bringsforth this structure of revealing and concealing. In this context of truth andtechne, architecture may be thought of correctly as an intentional productionand ordering of useful and meaningful space for human habitation and
13 Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture without Architects (London: Academy Editions, 1964).14 Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, in D. Krell (ed.), Martin Heidegger Basic