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Newsletter n° 3 (2016) - Feb. 2017


Restoration of the Heniskut temple
by Angela Mitschke

the small temple of Heniskut after the restoration work, autumn 2016
In 2015, members of the Achi Association visited Heniskut, a small village just behind the Fotula-pass and on the way from Lamayuru to Mulbekh. Situated right next to an abandoned minister´s house, the small temple was in an alarming condition. The roof was almost destroyed which caused a loss of the majority of the wall paintings. Only remains of figurative depictions of a huge central Buddha and a smaller Avalokiteshvara surrounded by seated, small sized Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the mainwall and few left-over lines of a big mandala at the north wall could be detected. Due to the open weather access, the once beautiful paintings where in a bad condition and showed different kinds of damages like cracks, loss of plaster, hollow plaster areas, flaking paint layer, faded colours and different deposits on the surface. Beside those remaining parts, all the wall paintings of the temple are lost and washed away and only some traces of colours can be found on the other walls.
After the previous year's survey on the temple and a talk to the villagers, for 2016 the Achi Association decided on a campaign to rebuild the roof and thus ascertain a future use of the temple.
Before starting the work on the temple's roof, it was necessary to secure and stabilize the fragmenary wall-paintings. The wall-painting conservators Angela Mitschke and Noor Jahan carried out the conservation measures, filling cracks, grouting hollow plaster areas, consolidating flaking paint layer and facing endangered parts of the wall-paintings.
Supported by local masons and under guidance of architect Hilde Vets, Achi Office manager Jigmet Namgial rebuilt the top of the walls, providing an even level for the beams of the roof (small photo above). The old beams were replaced by new ones and the ceiling was completed with a layer of new boards. The roof was rebuilt per local tradition in mud and stone. With the addition of a new door, the little temple is now complete again. The interior of the temple is protected from all weathers and allows the worship of the valuable wall paintings. A further, restorative treatment of the paintings shall follow.
Participants: Hilde Vets, Jigmet Namgial, Angela Mitschke, Noor Jahan, local workers
detail of the wall-paintings after the first conservation measures
conservator Angela Mitschke consolidating the paint-layer
before the work started: what is left of Heniskut temple
the work on the roof in full swing: new beams and boards form the ceiling
part of traditional roofing: a layer of mountain grass
talu (willow) sticks for the traditonal parapet
the parapet is erected
at the end of summer, Heniskut regains its fully functional little temple

Kanji Tusglag-khang: Campaign 2016
by Anne Voll

the Kanji Tsuglag-khang
Another year passed in the Achi Association`s darling temple, the Kanji Tsuglag-khang. And it was an unusual time in Kanji: unlike the freezing temperatures we gradually have become used to, it was sunny and warm. A welcome surprise for conservators Anne Voll and Linda Haselbach. The work focused mostly on further inpainting the remaining missing parts of wall-paintings in trattegio or astracione chromatica- technique. Art historian Nils Martin supported the team.
conservator Linda Haselbach at work
Detail of West wall after inpainting in 2016

Skurbuchan Khar

by John Harrison

Skurbuchan Khar
The rebuilding of the south front of the Khar continued in 2016. The masonry walls and roof structure had been completed by the end of the 2015 season, and in the summer of 2016 Ven. Konchok Motup and a team of Nepali masons and labourers built up the roof parapets in brick and slate. More bricks were made in the village, and bricks, earth and water transported to the site. All the external stonework and brickwork was pointed in mud mortar, except for the upper part of the east wall, which was beyond the reach of the longest ladders.
building up the roof parapets
taking out the stones blocking a two-storey high doorway into the entrance hall
The stones which for thirty years had blocked up the two-storey high doorway into the temple entrance hall were removed, to reveal the original wooden pillars and capitals hidden inside, and a structural wooden frame fitted. This will have windows and a new door.
Inside the painted room above the entrance hall, the major cracks in the wall at the west were filled, and the broken brick pier at the northwest rebuilt. Salvaged pillars and capitals were fitted in the adjoining kitchen, and in the new balcony room in the rebuilt south front.
Architect John Harrison was in Skurbuchan through the month of September.
the entrance hall, now with a wooden frame for windows and a door

The Kankani chörten of Nyoma: first phase of the structural restoration
by Hilde Vets

chörten upon arrival
In 2015 the Achi team carried out the survey and condition assessment of this remarkable gateway chörten at Nyoma, in the area of Changthang.
Inside the chörten is a large cubic chamber (2,3 by 2,3 by 1,85m) that is topped by a wooden lantern ceiling of five levels, with painted wooden sculptures and in-relief gilding. All the sidewalls are entirely decorated with very exquisite wall paintings. A stylistic and iconographic analysis made by art historian Nils Martin links them to Lord Bhagdarskyab, ruler of Wanla around the turn of the 14th century.
dusty work: K. Thinley and Q. Devers are taking out inner walls
cutting of the wood for the platform
Over the course of time, a deformation of the upper part of the chörten caused severe damages to the structure and the wall paintings. The collapsed vase and steps increased the weight on the wooden ceiling, resulting in big cracks and instability.
The measures taken in the summer campaign of 2016 prepared the building for the necessary conservation of the whole architectural structure.
The low stonewalls along the inner passageway were rebuilt as support for the scaffolding, which consists of a wooden platform accessible by a
rebuilt walls and phagbu (brick) support for the platform
The condition of the outside of the upper chörten had worsened over the year. Architect Hilde Vets and a local mason discovered quite some big cracks and holes around the vase and on the steps of the west façade. They were reinforced, filled with stones and covered with a coarse mud plaster.
Ven. Konchok Motup had the chörten whitewashed during the consecutive campaign of the wall painting restoration.
Participants: architect Hilde Vets, several masons and labours, archaeologist Quentin Devers, Ven. Konchok Motup & Konchok Thinley (Achi staff), intern Stanzin Nurboo
K. Motup whitewashing the chörten
finishing the filling of the cracks

Nyoma Kankani chörten: the wall-paintings

by Anne Voll

the Kankani chörten in Nyoma (left)
After surveying the inside of the Kawaling (also Kankani or Kagan) Chörten of Nyoma/ Changthang in 2015, this year´s mission was basically an emergency measure as well as a preventive conservation. The focus of conservators Anne Voll and Angela Mitschke was put on the painted inner walls where the damages were most severe. In the coming season of 2017, Achi´s architect Hilde Vets plans to further stabilize the chörtens static and architecture: At one point in the long history of the chörten, its vase had collapsed into the inside of the structure. Debris and stones presumably lie on the top of the ceiling now, pressing down on it. Accordingly, big cracks and hollow areas have formed on the in- and on the outside of the chörten, on its painted walls and ceiling. The likewise painted northern wall has moved outwards by some centimetres.
The task for the last campaign was to secure the paintings by partially filling the cracks and thus providing a stronger composite. They must withstand small shocks that might be caused by the work on the architecture. Small fragments of painted plaster which had slipped behind the paintings, where retrieved and secured in boxes for later reapplication. Also, the partly flaking paint-layer itself was secured. After the architecture is stabilized, the wall-paintings and ceiling can be further treated.
sometimes the work requires special talents: conservator Angela Mitschke built a ladder to access the wall-paintings, helped by a local youth
some of the rescued wall-painting fragments, now stored away for later reapplication
consolidation of flaking paint-layer
deep and wide cracks in the wall-paintings
after filling cracks with rough mortar to stabilize the plaster

Survey of Wanla Khar

by Anne Voll & Hilde Vets

the building after the propping
the ruins of Wanla Khar on top of the ridge
A small team of Achi Association continued the survey of the Wanla Khar (palace) in the summer of 2016. The previous year, its survey got interrupted by bad weather conditions when the small stream of Wanla village became a river over-night. The survey and condition assessment of this summer went further into detail, done meticulously by hand and later digitalised into a special 3D model. Architect Hilde Vets was supported by archaeologist Quentin Devers as she took stock of the ruin´s condition and documented its current state.
The Khar is situated close to the Wanla gompa (temple) on the top of a rock mountain and is probably dating back to the late 13th century. The structure is three floors high: The ground as well as the first floor is built in stone walled up
with earthen mortar, while the last floor - severely damaged and partially destroyed - is an earthen brick (phagbu) construction.

Internship and Outreach

by Joyoti Roy

Several local and international organizations are engaged in various projects in Ladakh. These range from documentation projects to research, conservation & restoration projects. Achi Association has also been working in architectural conservation, wall painting conservation and associated research projects. Over the years a need has constantly been felt to develop a platform for young Ladakhi professionals trained in relevant fields so that they could gain experience of working with their own cultural heritage. It is envisaged that this could be achieved through a wider Education Outreach Programme (EOP).
The EOP aims to be an over-arching programme that will involve younger Ladakhis in a participatory programme where they learn about their heritage and the need to preserve historic buildings, art treasures, crafts or literature. In preparation of expanding the EOP the first internship opportunity was announced by Achi Association in 2016. The interns got an opportunity to observe and learn from Achis’ ongoing projects as well as conduct a survey of the schools in and around Leh to create a feasibility study before the EOP is implemented in the coming years.
The announcement of the internship was made in May 2016, and several promising applications were received. All the candidates were called for an interactive session at the AA office in Leh where a detailed discussion about AA and its activities were carried out. Ms. Noor Jahan was selected given her qualifications and work experience. She is a research scholar pursuing her PhD in Art Conservation from the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, and as a young art conservator has worked on restoring various wall painting sites in Ladakh and Punjab. Among the other applicants were, Rigzin Angmo, BA Political Science, Lady Sriram College, Disket C. Angmo, BA English, Daulat Ram College and Stanzin Nurboo BA History, Zakir Hussain College, University of Delhi who volunteered to join the internship programme and the team, led by Noor Jehan. The interns displayed exemplary team spirit and commitment to the tasks at hand.
intern and phD candidate Noor Jahan (2nd L) opening the round of talks Conversation with the Heritage Experts, that time with Shri. Tashi Ldawa (L.)
In preparation towards the Educational Outreach Program in the schools of Ladakh – a survey had to be conducted to determine the facilities and activities available locally in schools. Towards building awareness, several meetings were held to discuss the content and methodology of the survey at the Leh office. The Chief Education Officer, Leh was also consulted informally. A format was prepared and information was generated based on the questions in the format. A survey of 31 schools was done in and around Leh by the interns under guidance. The interns conducted a preliminary survey in all the Govt. & Private schools from where they collected relevant information and also took photographs. The survey yielded crucial information about the schools and the co-curricular activities that the students take part in concerning culture and heritage.
Apart from the surveys, the interns actively participated in organizing and managing the office, and played a vital role in helping the Achi Association members during the projects on-site. The internship provided the interns a platform to interact with various experts from the field, and gave them an opportunity to create a network of contacts. The interns were also responsible for organizing the Heritage talks during the month of August at the Leh office which were much appreciated by the attendees.

intern Stanzin Norboo at a site visit (Hensikut)
interns Rigzin and Diskit with Quentin Devers

Leh Office: Summer 2016
by Noor Jahan

the series of talks Conversation with the Heritage Expert, this time led by phD candidate Nils Martin (L.)
Achi Leh office was quite busy throughout the summer, at the office a number of activities kept the space eventful. The office has become an interactive area for the scholars, researchers and other enthusiasts to meet and discuss new and old ideas. We made a few changes in the workflow such as development of a Walk-in-Questionnaire and a site grading system, which helped us in dealing with people/stakeholders who sought assistance regarding a cultural heritage site. The internship program running this summer made it easier for the restorers and architects to carry out the projects smoothly. A number of sites were visited during the summer for possible restoration campaigns in the future, we visited Entsa, Hunder, Tirisha Manekhang etc.
While in June and July, we were busy with the restoration projects in Henaskut and Nyoma, August kept us engrossed with the Heritage talks by various experts from the field. A number of speakers presented on various projects and issues and imparted the knowledge they contain to a variety of audience that gathered in the office. Meanwhile in September the restoration campaigns in Kanji and Skurbuchan projects were neared to summing up.
Achi office made progress by having with meetings other NGO’s and discussed possible future collaborations.
The Achi association Leh office also decided to have a storage space for all the materials and equipment’s that it owns, in order to ensure smooth workflow for our running and future projects. To sum-up it was a wonderful summer with a lot of success in our hands.
visitng Hunder Zimskhang with the Office team
meeting between Achi members and the Heniskut people

Terra 2016

by Alexandra Skedzuhn-Safir & Martina Oeter

In July 2016 members of the Achi Association attended the Terra 2016: 12th world congress on earthen architecture in Lyon, France. Martina Oeter, Alexandra Skedzuhn-Safir and Hilde Vets presented a poster and a paper on earthen architecture conservation in Ladakh. About 800 experts, scholars and interested people of more than 80 countries were present at the event. The conference was under the aegis of the ISCEAH Committee of ICOMOS international, in the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme (WHEAP) and organized by CRAterre laboratory of the Grenoble National School of Architecture (ENSAG), with the support of LabEx AE&CC and ICOMOS France, and in partnership with the Lyon National School of Architecture (ENSAL), les Grands Ateliers, ENTPE, INSA Lyon, and la Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée.
Achi Association 
Edoardo Zentner
Seefeldstrasse 104
CH - 8008 Zürich
Tel +41 44 3820054
Achi Association India
Joyoti Roy
E-1, Lower Ground Floor
Lajpat Nagar - III
New Delhi – 110024
Tel +91 11 41025021
Fax +91 11 41025020

Leh Office
Jigmet Namgial
Khangsar House
Leh, Ladakh - 194101
Copyright © 2016 Achi Association, All rights reserved.

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Achi Association · Edoardo Zentner · Seefeldstrasse 104 · Zürich CH-8008 · Switzerland

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