Kargyak is a picturesque village at +4,200m in the Zanskar Valley of the mighty Himalayas. The village is inaccessible for 7 months every year due to snow and the absence of roads in most parts of the valley. In an attempt to find solutions to such challenges and fulfill immediate needs of the children in Kargyak and its surrounding villages, the government sanctioned a standard school for 40 children.
During design and construction a 124 people live in this small village, at forty two hundred meters above sea level. The village is struggling to prolong its existence in the Zanskar valley in the mighty Himalayas. Despite the fact that it is one of the few places left in India where clean drinking water is available in abundance, Kargyak and its inhabitants have other challenges to deal with.
To be able to build as much as possible using the materials available within 500 m of the site, stone and mud were chosen as the primary building materials for the school. All of the houses, storage sheds and the gompa (temple) have been constructed by the villagers themselves without any external expertise. The material palette consists of mud bricks and stone for the walls and timber beams, hay and mud for the roofs. These structures often become vulnerable to snow and wind and are not able to stand more than six months without regular repair.
With constraints related to a the limited availability of building materials, a short construction season and a continuous struggle against wind and snow on site, a well thought and detailed process of construction was required, and creative solutions were needed to build a sustainable, long lasting structure.
The materials as well as construction tools had to be purchased from the nearest town of Manali via a three day trek. For instance, for the RCC foundation ring beam the steel bars had to be taken to Kargyak on mules. Getting cement and glass on site was also a challenge. The glass panel size had to be restricted to a maximum of 4 feet so that it does not get difficult for the mule to carry it on narrow paths over a 5,100 m altitude Himalayan pass. As the altitude of the village is way above the tree line, wood is a rare commodity. For the roof the large wooden beams were transported on sledges over the frozen river in winter.
Description: Community school building in a village in the Himalayas.
Design: Arch I platform: Anne Feenstra, Kushal Lachhwani, Himanshu Lal, Sneha Khullar
Consultants: Fundación Escuela para la Vida (School for Life), Blueland Civic Association, Directorate of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, J&K
Building status: in use
Construction period: July 2007 - November 2007
Location: Kargayak, India
Coordinates: 34°9'42.8'' N, 77°32'16.8'' E
Tags: community practice, craftsmanship, mountains, mud brick, climate
Project ID: 532
Published: 23 July 2015
Last updated: 19 October 2015
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