Achi Association
  • Enjoying the restored 8 chörten building

WANLA - 8 chörten building

Outcome and Outlook

Mistri Puntzok Dorjey at work (photo: Hilde Vets).
Mistri Puntzok Dorjey at work

All architectural restoration and conservation measures have been undertaken using traditional techniques and materials employed by the local masons and craftsmen. 

The 8 chörten building is structurally preserved and its interiors, the wall paintings and the eight chörten, are saved. 

The project aimed to maintain its authenticity of functions. Therefore, all restoration and conservation measures have been preceded by consent from both the resident monks as well as the village community. 

During and after the restoration works we received a lot of appreciation from the locals – lay people as well as monks.

All people involved certainly do have an increased sensibility and technical knowledge for and about heritage preservation. 

During the restoration process, interesting discussions about heritage preservation took place between the conservators and the local craftsmen, workers and villagers. Often they didn’t understand why a certain part had to be preserved and others not, why we didn’t use cement/concrete to reinforce the walls, why such an effort was necessary to safeguard the painted walls, etc.

Carpenters fitting the capital for a column, formed in the way of the original (photo: Hilde Vets).
Fitting the capital
Carpenter´s assistant Nawang Dorjay carving the wood into the traditional mutik (pearl) form (photo:Hilde Vets).
carpenter carving the wood

They tended anyway to ‘contemporary’ techniques, a lot of times of ‘inferior quality’. We acknowledged that some traditional techniques are not used or even known any more. The oldest mason, Puntsok Dorjay (49 years) certainly had a better knowledge about the old ways then the younger one, Tsewang Gyaltsen (35 years). 

We were very lucky as well to have some students from university among the workers. They were all young people (between 17 and 24 years old) from Wanla, most of them studying in Jammu or Chandigarh. They had returned to Wanla for the summer vacation. As news was spread that we needed (paid) labour people for the work on the building, they proposed their help, earning this way a bit of pocket money for their studies. Their enthusiasm and interest proved that they are aware of the importance of heritage preservation, as a source of pride for their culture. They all thanked the team of Achi Association for being allowed to work on this project and to learn from it.

Although the trainees of the Youth Training Program had little time to spend on the project, during the short participations they were showing their capacity to follow up a restoration project. 

Over the years the Achi members have made efforts to involve local masons, carpenters and workers/volunteers in their activities. This project made it clear that a far-reaching and inclusive effort is needed to guarantee the interest and active participation of the community as a whole. 

As the mentality about using modern materials like cement is getting rooted in the mind of the people, Achi Association really has to continue strenuously to transmit conservation strategies to the local communities and to support pride in traditional technical know-how by promoting the use of traditional building materials like clay, local grass and mud bricks etc. and by reviving traditional building techniques while interacting with local craftsmen and village people. 

The young team of helpers on site, most of them students - all of them are from Wanla (photo: Hilde Vets).
The young team of helpers