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Digital platforms help to save traditional Nepalese homes

Refurbishment boom sustains local culture but sometimes threatens authenticity

Jo Rankine, an Australian photographer, has visited Newa Chen -- a 300-year-old-home-turned-bread and breakfast in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley -- twice since coming across it on a digital platform. (Photo by Sunil Pradhan)

KATHMANDU -- Nepalese architect Prabal Thapa watched with sadness 10 years ago as developers tore down traditional Newari homes near Kathmandu's historic Patan Durbar Square to build high-rises. The houses, which boasted intricately carved latticed windows and courtyards, were associated with the indigenous Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley.

Appalled by the destruction of this slice of Nepal's cultural heritage, Thapa took matters into his own hands, forming a company called Traditional Homes with three partners to make better use of historic properties. The company spent 1 million Nepalese rupees ($8,700) on its first project: the restoration of an 80-year-old Newari house for use as tourist accommodation.

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