The first formal architectural institution in Nepal, the Department of Architecture, Pulchowk Campus, has a long history of sharing architectural knowledge and expression in Nepal. The Central Campus of the Institute of Engineering under Tribhuvan University, the oldest university of Nepal, Pulchowk Campus, is run by the Government of Nepal. With an acceptance rate of 3.8%, 624 students get enrolled into the campus each year through a nationwide entrance examination where on average, 15000 students compete for seats in various constituent colleges of the Institute of Engineering (IoE). Among the limited seats are included quotas for women and various marginalised groups. Every year 48 students get enrolled in the Department of Architecture, Pulchowk Campus, where they spend the next five years of adventure, challenge, and self-discovery.
The site and Surrounding Context | Pulchowk Campus
Pulchowk Campus is located in Chakupat, Lalitpur, close to Patan, one of the three core traditional settlements of the Kathmandu Valley. Stretching over an area of 60 acres, it is one of the largest educational institutions in the nation. The campus area is expansive and rich in greenery, a rare sight within a city. The air is fresh, and the evergreen trees act as a noise and visual buffer from the road. With an adequate number of parks, gardens, fountains, and ponds, the site within is intricately landscaped. Woven within site are the recreational and sports zones. Pulchowk Campus is also a house to one of the largest playgrounds in the valley, where different inter-college and national games are held periodically. The college is easily accessed through pedestrian and vehicular roads from multiple directions and lies close to stationaries, bookshops, supermarkets, and other amenities.
Most of the buildings in the Pulchowk Campus are in Contemporary Nepali Architectural Style with red brick facades, collonaded corridors, louvres, and flat roofs. The different blocks within the campus resonate with each other and the site, paying homage to the traditional brick construction of the valley. Assimilated within the Architecture Department is the Rana Palace, Ananda Niketan, and its supplementary structures and pavilions, which are in Neo-Classical Architectural Style. The sense of grandiosity and order is maintained within each block, and these blocks are accentuated with supporting amphitheatres, gardens, and playgrounds. Architecture Department. Ananda Niketan is used as an administrative block while the Summer Pavillion is in ruins. The Mujra House of the Rana times is currently used as a Free Hand Sketching Block with its time-worn austere beauty. A raised platform stands before it where students are found basking in the sun and sketching.
Academics | Pulchowk Campus
Pulchowk Campus currently provides seven Bachelor of Engineering (B.E) programs and a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) for undergraduates. It also provides around twenty Master of Science (M.Sc) programs for postgraduates, among which three fall under the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning. To facilitate all these programs, the college premises house many classrooms, laboratories, and workshops, along with the Pulchowk Campus library, one of the largest libraries in Nepal, and an ICTC Centre. A Department Library, Wood Workshop, Free Hand Sketching Block, Design Studio, Communication labs, Heavy labs, Conference rooms, and Classrooms facilitate Architectural Education.
An undergraduate B.Arch Student is to complete a five-year course with a semester of Practicum (in the seventh semester) where he/she is required to intern at a recognised firm and the final semester of graduation project or thesis. In between, a student is required to complete eight Design Studios along with subjects like Mathematics, Structure, Building Construction, Building Science, History of Architecture, Professional Practice, Construction Management, Communication, Architectural Conservation, Design Theory, Drafting, Working Drawings, Building Services, Arts and Graphics, etc. Students can also select from a range of electives in two semesters.
Pulchowk Campus has an extremely conducive environment for studying and teaching architecture. The campus boasts the production of some of the country’s most successful and impactful practitioners of architecture, design and planning. The campus is a thriving hub for national and international students from all walks of life, with a common goal of learning, practising, and promoting architectural education and practice in Nepal. To develop leadership and cooperation among the students, students of each batch are responsible for coordinating one event per semester Teacher’s Day Celebration, Welcome and Farewell Program, Exhibition, Sports meet, etc. Students are also encouraged to participate in and be guided through various national and international design competitions, fellowships, conferences, and conventions. VAASTU, an annual architectural magazine, is also prepared and published within the department. All of these events are supervised and supported by the Department and ASA.
The Association of Students of Architecture (ASA) was formally established in 1997 as a non-political student body with a vision of fostering strong coherence among the students of architecture at the Pulchowk Campus. With executive members selected from different years of students, ASA is responsible for facilitating workshops, events, sports meets, and supplementary classes undertaken by the department. ASA bridges the faculty and the students and acts as a point of contact with other student bodies of diverse architectural institutions around the country, encouraging a nationwide collaboration among students studying architecture. Besides providing old questions, reference books, and class notes to the students through its online website, ASA also invites guest lecturers, architects, and related professionals. National ASA Architectural Exhibition, organised each year, is one of the most sought events supported by pre-events like Art Competitions, Book Reviews, Photography competitions, Design competitions, Flash Mobs, Heritage walks, Panel Discussions, etc.
In Nutshell | Pulchowk Campus
The history of formal architectural education in Nepal is brief compared to the global context. It is obvious then that architectural education needs to be improved in many ways. Institutions are deeply impaired from the lack of labs and workshops, software classes, and textbooks to facilitate education to the dire shortage of authentic and reliable sources for better grasping national and local architecture. The curriculum itself needs to be updated and needs changing to suit the sign of the times better. Pulchowk Campus also shares these issues that have pushed architectural education back by a decade. Yet what is admirable is the consistent baby steps towards formalising and globalising architectural education that is being made. Preparations for updating the curriculum and incorporating more advanced labs and workshops are being made. It is also commendable how through purely merit-based enrollment, quality education is being impartially granted to the population that deserves it and pines for it.