Theses Master's

Rebuilding a Historic City: Post-Disaster Housing Reconstruction in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Yoshihara, Shinichi

A crisis can turn into an opportunity to change. The larger the crisis is, the motivation for a change becomes more significant. A devastating earthquake in 2015 motivated Nepal to build more resilient housings nationwide that would not collapse by future earthquakes. With the Build Back Better concept in mind, the national housing reconstruction program helped disaster-affected people rebuild their earthquake-resistant homes. However, existing studies suggest that historic settlements in Kathmandu Valley are losing their historic values due to the earthquake damage itself and the recovery interventions.

Through a single case study with archival research, my thesis investigates how the post-disaster planning interventions, specifically the national housing reconstruction program, have impacted Bhaktapur’s old town. The result shows that the housing reconstruction program brought about a long-lasting transformation of the old town. The overall assumption of the program was based on rural areas, which does not necessarily address the complexities of urban settlements. One of the reasons behind this is the spatial preference of the international institutions and other development partners that selected rural areas as their targeted sites. This created an unintended new set of vulnerable populations in urban areas and de-densification of the old town. Furthermore, the narrowly defined Build Back Better recovery accelerated the change of the old town instead of conserving it. The brick masonry with earthen mortar, historically used in Newari settlements, could not be practically applied to three- or four-story urban housing reconstruction because of the structural requirements of the National Building Code.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Bou Akar, Hiba
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2021