GOOD

Chloe Rice

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Arriving in Kathmandu, I remember feeling that despite the fact that I was with 20 other people, it seemed like my entire American life was slipping away. The chaos of the city was rich with colors, shapes, smells, faces, and ideas that I had never known existed in the world, let alone experienced—from watching people being cremated in front of our eyes at Pashupatinath to seeing students painting Mandalas above Boudhanath stupa.
The design of the Spirit of Place project in Nepal began many months before, during a class at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. As part of the Sacred and Cultural Studies concentration, Travis Price has brought students on almost 20 design-build expeditions around the world since 1993. At the beginning of our project my classmates and I had very little knowledge of the place, culture, and religion that we were going to be designing for. Our task was to build a memorial to the ancestors of a small village on the top of ancient burial ground in the villages of Namje and Thumki, Nepal.
Even more unfamiliar was the combination of religious traditions. The people of the village are Magar and their beliefs are a mixture of Shamanism, Hinduism and Buddhism. We spent a lot of time researching as we prepared to design, becoming as familiar as we could without actually experiencing it firsthand.
Kathleen Lane, the director of Spirit of Place, had just returned from a scouting trip with Travis to the village. They shared volumes of photos and stories to acclimate us into the right mindset. The design process Travis has set up starts with each individual student developing a poetic metaphor as a design driver. Over several weeks and several drafts this process results in a single group poetic model which then translates into the final architectural design.

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