Young design graduates and architects call the shots in Ladakh’s burgeoning vernacular landscape

Ladakh is under the influence of a new breed of creative and skillful architects/designers with a shared vision of elevating the valley’s cultural and design quotient through vernacular construction, heritage conservation and sustainable tourism.

These are some of the bright minds who strive to build a Ladakh naturally with its own dust and rocks as it is fancied by its denizens rusticating day in and out in this tough terrains.

Abeer Gupta, Director, Achi Association India

The Achi Association India, opened in 2010 is a branch of private non-profit organization based in Switzerland, founded in 1999 by people dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage and scholars specializing in the early art and architecture of the Western Himalayas. 

NID alumnus, Abeer Gupta and his team have put to test all the knowledge they’ve acquired  to impact the region’s future. With the idea of creating a “Third Space idea”, a concept that brings together heritage conservation and education, they have been restoring and adapting heritage structures in Phey village of Leh.

The organisation is led by  an interdisciplinary team of specialists from Europe and India, partly linked to academic programs at different universities that combine in-depth research with hands-on preservation, local people are key for sustainable preservation.

Faiza Khan and Suril Patel, Founding Partners, Field Architects

Field Architects is a nomadic architecture practice formed by Faiza Khan and Suril Patel in 2017, evolving around their cognitive travel experiences, immersive vernacular lifestyle, and critical observations. It aims to deconstruct the indigenous built forms, traditional artisanship, and formal geometry.

Having worked in reputed  firms like Serie Architects and Studio Mumbai, the duo came to Ladakh to learn elements key to vernacular construction from Magsaysay award-winner Sonam Wangchuk in a two-year teaching stint at SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh). Further learning came from the conservation of heritage structures, working with materials and techniques used centuries ago.

As per Khan they were curious to learn “How do you include the vernacular in the modern and what can that combined language evolve into?

Stanzin Chozang, founder and creative director, Chozang Design Associates

After a short stint at the New Delhi–based practice Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates, Chozang moved back to Leh in 2014.

As per Chozang, Ladakhis won’t employ architects; they built homes using hereditary know-how. That changed with time and what also changed was Chozang’s own viewpoint on materiality. Instead of finishing with paint, he uses a mix of Multani mitti and waterproofing.

Sandeep Bogadhi, Founder, Earthling Ladakh

The Nubra-based architect from Vizag moved to Ladakh in 2013,  after studying Architecture  and  spending close to a decade there learning the tricks of making spaces at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).

Since then, he’s built passive solar homes and hotels using techniques such as rammed earth and compressed-brick masonry. 

According to Bogadhi, “Materials define the project,”. Each village has unique building resources that can be used naturally. Currently he is involved with a project of building a green restroom for Royal Enfield. 

Noor Jahan, Art Conservator and CoFounder, Shesrig Ladakh

She and her team have been called to do surveys of wall paintings and while we’re there, we always see thangkas in ill state of repair and convince them to conserve those too

In the past decade, she has worked on wall-painting conservation projects for entities such as the Tibet Heritage Fund, Heritage Preservation Atelier, and Art Conservation Solutions.

Her sites have included popular religious locations like the Golden Temple as well as shrines tucked within grottos that required her to camp there for a month.

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