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Vernacular Eco-Architecture Workshop (15-29 Oct 2015)

 What: Intensive Service-Learning Workshop

Topic: Vernacular Eco-architecture of the Himalayas

Where: Dharmalaya Institute in Bir, HP, India

When: 15-29 October 2015 (must attend from the start)

Language: English (with Hindi translation if needed)

Facilitators: Dharmalaya faculty and artisans, e.g. Mark Moore et al.

Description: Residential service-learning programme at the Dharmalaya Institute with hands-on training in earthen building and more. Learn to build eco-friendly structures in the neo-traditional Kangra style of esteemed eco-architect Didi Contractor, while contemplating our relationship with nature and the values of sustainable and compassionate living.

What is Vernacular Eco-Architecture? See this page for an introduction.

After the introductions, orientation, and general overview of the programme, we will get straight to work doing various hands-on projects around the Dharmalaya campus, including work on several earthen structures that are in various stages of construction. The two main focal points during this programme will be raising the walls of a new earthen structure while doing some finishing work on another. The work will include adobe and other earthen techniques, and may also include stone, bamboo and slate, as well as mud plaster, landscape architecture, and possibly other activities. We will also have theory discussions and other presentations and explorations. If circumstances allow, we may also have a small participatory design process (depending on the needs on site at the time).

Workshops and groups sessions may include the following:

  • Hands-on education in neo-traditional earthen architecture of the Himalayas
    • Making adobe bricks (sun-baked earth blocks)
    • Earthen masonry (building adobe/cob walls)
    • Earthen renders (mud plasters)
    • Other natural building materials and methods (e.g. stone, bamboo, wood, etc.)
  • Natural landscaping and organic gardening
  • Possible participatory design opportunities (if and when timing and circumstances permit)
  • Meditation/yoga/connected movement (optional morning/evening sessions)

What to expect:

  • A blend of practice and theory, with emphasis on deepening understanding through practical experience.
  • Opportunities to learn traditional methods by working alongside village artisans.
  • You will be working with your hands and body for approximately six hours per day on most days of the programme, so it is recommended to be in reasonably good physical fitness when you arrive, and to bring work clothes.
  • Beautiful, rustic, village setting with a simple lifestyle.
  • Architecture and design students please note: The focus is on learning the materials, methods, and underlying principles of vernacular eco-architecture. There may or may not be small design opportunities, depending on circumstances on the worksite.


The fee for the workshop is Rs 1000 per day (Rs 14,000 total) including tuition, healthy meals, and comfortable tent accommodation (with private rooms available at additional cost). For low-income participants, a limited number of work-study scholarships are available (please contact us for details).


Before you pack for your trip to Dharmalaya, please read the very important information on our Visitor Info page and our FAQ. If you have a specific question that is not answered there, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer.

NOTE FOR STUDENTS: This is not a certificate course. It is an introductory workshop offered for the benefit of those who sincerely wish to learn about traditional earthen building, not for credentials but for the sake of gaining understanding and experience in a real-world situation. Experiential learning is its own reward. If you are looking for a certificate course, there are plenty of those elsewhere.

Registration & Deposit

Enrolment in this workshop is limited, so advance registration and 50% nonrefundable deposit (Rs. 7000) are required. Registrations are confirmed only after receiving the deposit, on a first-come-first-served basis. To request registration, use this form. When we receive your registration, we will reply with further instructions and information. The remaining balance of Rs 7000 will be payable upon arrival at Dharmalaya Institute.

To make a deposit securely via credit card or PayPal (after registering and confirming availability with us), click the button below:

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