In design at university, I remember being discouraged from creating a symmetrical building, being told that it doesn’t make for an interesting building. Maybe this is true, but in Pulga we stayed at a guesthouse called Dev Raj, which was fairly symmetrical and interesting enough for a blog.
Dev Raj was a simple square with three levels. The first two levels were divided into an equal four rooms, making it an eight room guesthouse. This design would be difficult to do in a house but as a guesthouse it worked perfectly.
It wasn’t just the symmetry of Dev Raj which appealed, the structure was also fascinating. Like other houses in the village, it used the same technique of the Kathkuni style (a mesh of timber and stone) but instead of the usual square or rectangular base, Dev Raj had a central Kathkuni cross structure with half length walls on two opposing sides.
Timber beams were then mostly cantilevered (a few were supported by timber posts) from these strong walls. The strength of the structure was questioned slightly as the timber walls which filled in around the Kathkuni walls seemed to all be on a slight lean. What was fascinating though, was when I asked the owner (Dev Raj) about the building, he mentioned that the Kathkuni construction settles after one year and the whole building shrinks a bit. Maybe, this is why some of the wood seems a bit twisted and slightly skewed? Or maybe set squares aren’t so important in carpentry here?
Dev Raj also explained that he and a few carpenters had built the building, completing it in 2006 after 2 years. The building is not quite finished yet as the top level only consists of wooden frames but he did not seem to be in any great rush to finish it. Wood is much harder to come by and is becoming more expensive. Every family in the village was once given a license to cut down two trees a year, but now they are only allowed to use trees which fall down naturally.
The combination of wood and the cow pat/mud render on the Kathkuni construction, along with its setting amongst wheat fields made Dev Raj Guesthouse a beautiful building.