We promote Newari patrimony through conservation projectsRenovated Newar homes that are rented out to tourists have sprung up all across Patan. These homes offer traditional Newar architecture blended with modern comforts, presenting a smart and affordable alternative to hotels.
Published at : November 26, 2018
Updated at : November 26, 2018 11:44
Renovated Newar homes that are rented out to tourists have sprung up all across Patan. These homes offer traditional Newar architecture blended with modern comforts, presenting a smart and affordable alternative to hotels. Among the first companies to begin renovating homes and renting them out was Cosy Nepal, which now hosts a number of such homes across Patan. The company believes in promoting the conservation of Newar patrimony through “sustainable architectural solutions”. In this interview with the Post’s Saurav R Pandey, Camille Hanesse and Sailesh Byanjankar, managers at Cosy Nepal, speak about the agency’s journey and their team’s creed and future plans. Excerpts:
As one of the first companies to start renovating and renting out traditional homes, how did this idea come to you?
We noticed that the old, traditional houses near Patan did not have a promising future because people did not give much thought to keeping their pride and story alive, despite them being family homes for hundreds of years. We were a bit sad seeing concrete buildings being established instead of old, typical traditional, and cultural houses in Patan. We were quite shocked by the pace of heritage destruction and thought it was time to react by developing sustainable architectural solutions in the respect of aesthetic tradition. We thought that home-like accommodations were lacking in Kathmandu, and we wanted to nurture cosy places off the beaten track. Soon, we became aware of the rich, architectural Newari patrimony and got involved in promoting it through conservation projects. Thus, our idea was to offer our guests a charming place that is an amalgam of both tradition and modern comfort.
When you first started out, what challenges did you face?
Actually, we are not running these homes for business purposes only. We do not want to own anything from our guests. We want to give back to the old houses as we are more than just an accommodation company. For example, Prakash, one of our main leaders, had his house renovated by Cosy Nepal. Now, we also host visitors at his house, where they learn about Newari food, culture, and history. Initially, as you rightly mentioned, we did face some challenges. Bureaucracy was one as it was quite difficult to initially set up a business and bring things in line. We also needed to find the right house and get the renovation process done on time and also provide quality food. In addition, just like any business that is pretty new faces, we had the challenge of publicising and letting people know about our service.
You seem to have quite a multicultural team. How did that come about? In your opinion, what are some of the advantages of having a multicultural team?
Our team is not as multicultural as people may think. In fact, it’s almost a full Nepali company. Almost all my partners and friends here are Nepali while I am from French origin. Of course, having colleagues from different nations means different ideas and opinions will be brought to the table. The more a network comprises of individuals from different cultural backgrounds, the more you will be creatively simulated by different perspectives. Moreover, it’s known that diverse teams are more productive and bring about opportunities for professional and personal growth.
Your agency renovates old Newari homes, but how do you maintain a balance between the traditional architectural elements and modern conveniences?
We know what is necessary for people to be happy and live harmoniously. We strive to keep the traditional and cultural elements intact while also making sure that our visitors experience them in the best conditions, which include proper light, pure air, controlled dryness etc. For instance, our floors and stairs are covered with typical Nepali wood and houses with traditional Nepali bricks. We also
provide a typical Newari kitchen experience. But this does not imply that our visitors do not enjoy conveniences like state-of-the-art kitchen appliances, bathroom amenities, or gadgets like electric heaters and washing machines.
Renovated Newari homes to rent have now sprung up all across Patan. How do you deal with the competition?
I find that quite sad. But, we just back ourselves and focus on our main motive: to have a balance between architectural tradition and comfort. We are very discreet and give opportunities to visitors who want to experience Newari life. People think that such enterprises are only for business and money. For us, the competition itself is not much of a problem. I find it a problem for the locality. The idea was to keep the locals here. But they are going elsewhere, and we wanted tourists to see the local life. Like I mentioned, Prakash shares his houses with tourists, lives with them, and shares his culture and creeds. Even here, we have a local grandma who cooks daal bhat tarkari for the tourists. This is the difference between Cosy Nepal and other accommodations or hotels. Yes, money is important to propel future projects but that’s not all that we look for.
As I understand it, you are currently only in Patan. What are your plans on expansion? Do you plan to pursue similar projects in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur?
Yes, that’s true. We are a small team, having only about five people in managerial positions. If we hire people who are not like minded and do not share common values, our idea might backfire. For now, we do not have any plans to expand our accommodation.
You cater mostly to foreign customers in an area that is predominantly Newari and traditional. Are you ever concerned that you are driving gentrification?
We actually do not drive gentrification that much. We are so discreet that it doesn’t drive the locals out and initiate price hike. We are not very expensive for the services we provide. It is only the people’s wrong thought that we make a lot of money. For us, we want the locals to stay here and rent out to foreigners.