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Cultural Landscape and Traditional Architecture in Bamiyan

by Daniel Lohmann last modified May 13, 2011 11:30 AM

There’s more to Bamiyans Cultural Heritage than the tragically famous giant Buddhas that were destroyed in 2001. The Unesco World Heritage Convention protects Bamiyan as a Cultural Landscape, a cultural property representing the "combined works of nature and of man". The Cultural Landscape of Bamiyan was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002.

Agricultural patterns of fields and canals reflect the past and present cultivation of the valley. This harmonious balance of man and nature is currently endangered by fast development and interest in the valley, urging for proper documentation and research of this unique Cultural Landscape. RWTH Aachen University investigated and mapped in two campaigns in the summer of 2005 and 2007 the traditional rural “vernacular” farmstead architecture of mud and adobe. The field survey and the documenation done by architects Daniel Lohmann and Dominik Roll of the Aachen Center for Documentation and Conservation.

GPS technology and satellite images were in use in a combination with photography, hand sketches and data forms, to ensure a systematic registration. During the survey, a typology of traditional buildings could be established and revealed the following results:

The traditional Central Asian farmstead “Qalaa” is a tall square fortified building with round or polygonal towers on the corners. The type represented in Bamiyan shows a comparatively undecorated in- and exterior. The first reliable map of the Bamiyan valley of 1936 shows these Qalaas as the only houses in the valley. Nowadays clusters of simpler mud houses have gathered around these ‘urban nuclei’. The original buildings could be located, sketched and described. Furthermore, a large number of religious buildings such as shrines and mausoleums, as well as commercial buildings like the destroyed former bazaar were documented.

Recommendations for the protection of certain buildings as monuments were also given.

For further information please consult the Cultural Masterplan document, or contact the authors.

Modern Mud Settlement
All over the valley, modern house clusters in traditional mud technique developed around the original central landowner building, the "Qalaa".

Traditional Fortified Farmstead
The "Qalaa", a traditional tall fortified mud farmstead, has a square plan with 4 polygonal towers on all corners and a single gate, usually facing south.

Another example of the Traditional Farmstead

Decorated Religious Buildings
A Detail of an islamic mausoleum constructed in mud, decorated with stucco plaster and painting.

Corner Tower
The corner tower of a traditional "Qalaa"

Mausoleum Building
A Mausoleum Building with three graves in direct proximity to the "Great Buddha"

Building Typology of Bamiyan
The types of traditional architecture in Bamiyan.

Building registration sketch "Qalaa"
An example of a building registration sheet with a sketch showing a typical farmstead "Qalaa".

Building registration sketch "Mausoleum"
A building registration form and sketch showing a "Ziyarat" or Mausoleum.

Overlay 1936 map and Satellite image
An overlay of a current satellite image and the first map of Bamiyan by J. Meunie (1936) showing the development of the valley and identifying the buildings that served as "urban nuclei", the source of settlement development.
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