The traditional local architecture in this part of the Himalayas involves stacking local stones one above the other without using any cementing material in a ‘dry stack’, locally called ‘kori chinai’. Places where sticky mud is available, the style is improvised to use mud as a cementing material.
The roof of traditional Kumaoni houses is traditionally laid using pine logs and stuffed with split up logs embedded in mud. The roof terrace is then laid using the local slate stone called pataal which is sealed using locally available mud. The plaster on the walls is done using mud and husk which provides for excellent insulation.
This is what we have done - renovated the 100-year-old traditional Kumaoni village house, using the same old techniques and materials with minimum necessary involvement of the modern. We have tried to achieve a fine balance between authenticity and comfort.
Procuring raw material from within a radius of 100-mile is considered eco-sensitive; here we have created and renovated our village home using material largely from a radius 10 miles. Itmenaan Estate is a stunning example of authentic traditional stone architecture.
Some of the salient features of our house include:
The stone used has either been recycled (using stones of the dismantled old houses) or been collected from road building sites where hill sides are cut and the stone thus produced would otherwise be rolled into the valleys. No stone has been mined especially for the project.
The slates for roof too has been acquired from the nearby villages where traditional houses have been dismantled, sadly for the concrete roof which though cheaper is unsuitable for local conditions.
Only local material has been used in construction – whether stone, mud or wood. Nothing has been procured from outside even though it meant manifold increase in the effort, time and costs.
The obstinate defiance of anything non-local has resulted in some innovation too. Flooring of the bathroom has been done using local slate which has traditionally not been used for indoor flooring.
The artisans who helped renovate the house belong to the local mason community who are no longer required by locals to build their houses using ‘dry stack’. In fact, in the early days of construction, locals would gather at the construction site and see the pure form of ‘dry stack’ in awe and admiration.
The windows, niches and decorative forms have all been taken from local styles.