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Introduction to Earthen Interiors (4-9 Sep 2017)


Event: Introductory training workshop (residential)

Topic: Interior work in Kangra-style earthen buildings

When: 4-9 September 2017 (must attend from the start and remain for the duration) plus optional practicum of 1-3 weeks from 11 September until as late as 30 September.

Language: English (with Hindi translation if requested)

Facilitators: Dharmalaya Institute’s faculty, artisans, and interns

Description: Six-day residential workshop to provide introductory hands-on training in some of the foundational skills of earthen building — specifically focusing on interiors — in the neo-traditional Kangra style of esteemed eco-architect Didi Contractor. Learn to create and apply earthen renders (mud plaster) in an adobe structure, as well as other interior work (e.g. flooring, fine finishing, etc.). The workshop will be followed by an optional practicum of up to four weeks during which you can improve your skills and understanding by working with our team of artisans.

What is ‘natural building’ and why should I care? See this page for an introduction.

After the introductions, orientation, and general overview of the programme, the workshop will focus primarily on hands-on training and practice. There will be theoretical/philosophical explorations in the evenings.

The hands-on work will include various projects around the Dharmalaya campus, including interior work on several earthen structures that are in various stages of completion. We provide training in the fundamental techniques, and then step back and give everyone time and space to practice them by working alongside our team of village artisans.

For those who wish to practice yoga and/or meditation, our meditation hall will be available in the mornings before breakfast and in the evenings after the evening sessions.

Activities may include the following (depending on weather and circumstances)

  • Hands-on training in Kangra-style neo-traditional earthen architecture, which may include:
    • Making proper earthen mixes using local best practices
    • Earthen renders (mud plasters)
    • Wood/bamboo finishing work (sanding, varnishing, etc.)
    • Flooring (soling, slate tiling, polishing, etc.)
  • Water management (possibly drainage and gutter work, rainwater harvesting, etc.)
  • Possibly a session or two of organic gardening or tree planting (weather permitting)
  • Other activities that vary with each programme

What to expect

  • Rustic forested setting with a clean and simple ashram lifestyle in which everyone contributes to the running of the place, including cooking, cleaning, washing dishes and toilets, etc.
  • The days will be completely full: You’ll wake up early, work hard till 5:00pm, and then the evenings will be occupied with presentations and discussions.
  • You won’t have much personal time for these six days, and you’ll spend the whole six days at the Dharmalaya Institute without leaving, in order to make the most of our short time together. So, prepare yourself mentally for being focused and squeezing the maximum learning out of every moment.
  • You will be working with your hands and body (including plenty of honest hard work!) for approximately six or seven hours per day on most days of the programme, so it is strongly recommended to be in reasonably good physical fitness when you arrive, and you should bring work clothes.
  • Architecture and design students please note: The focus is not on design, but rather on doing real-world work to gain understanding of the materials, methods, and underlying principles of vernacular eco-architecture.

For those who are serious about learning and practicing the techniques of earthen building, we strongly recommend staying after the end of the programme to volunteer for a while (typically two to four weeks), so that you can deepen your understanding and improve your skills by doing real-world, hands-on work alongside our local village artisans here on the Dharmalaya campus.


The total fee for the workshop is Rs 7500/-, inclusive of tuition, healthy meals, and comfortable accommodation in shared dormitories (and sometimes a private room may be available at additional cost). Transportation costs are not included. For low-income participants with unusual financial hardship, a limited number of work-study positions are available (please contact us for details).

Practicum (11th-30th September)

After the workshop (and one day of rest on 10th September), there will be an optional practicum period from 11th-30th September. The practicum is a volunteer work period exclusively for those who have completed this workshop (or another building-related workshop at Dharmalaya Institute), to enable workshop participants to build upon the skills and knowledged acquired during the workshop by doing hands-on work alongside our local team of architects and artisans.

Workshop participants are encouraged to stay for as much of this practicum period as possible in order to deepen your skills and understanding through real-world experience. It is not required to stay for the whole period, but working at least one or two weeks during the practicum will provide significantly greater experience than just doing the six-day workshop by itself (and of course doing the full three weeks of practicum would be even better, if your schedule allows).

During the practicum, we will follow the regular schedule and activities for our Volunteer Work Periods: five and a half days per week of working full time from 9-5, with personal quiet time in the evenings and on Sundays, plus an occasional half-day off.

If you are interested in possibly staying on after the workshop for part or all of the practicum, please say so in your application, and mention your proposed departure date (you can change it later if you wish, but we need to have an approximate idea for planning purposes).

Important Information

Before you pack for your trip to Dharmalaya Institute, 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 SEEKING CERTIFICATES: This is not a certificate course. No certificate or letter will be provided (no exceptions).

Application, Registration & Deposit

Enrolment in this workshop is by application only and space is very limited, so advance registration and 50% nonrefundable deposit (Rs 3750) are required. Registrations are confirmed only after receiving the deposit, on a first-come-first-served basis. To apply, use this form. If we approve your application, we will reply with further instructions and information. The remaining balance of Rs 3750 will be payable upon arrival at Dharmalaya Institute (so be sure to bring enough cash with you).

For Participants with Indian Rupee Bank Accounts

You can make your nonrefundable 50% deposit either by in-person deposit at any HDFC branch, or electronically by bank transfer (intra-bank transfer for HDFC accounts, or NEFT for non-HDFC accounts). We will send bank details after your application is approved.

For Participants without Indian Rupee Bank Accounts

After we have approved your application and requested you to make the deposit, you can make your non-refundable 50% deposit securely by credit card, debit card, eCheck, or Payal. Just click the button below:

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