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Report: Table of Contents


by Andre Alexander and Pimpim de Azevedo

Werkleute sind wir: Knappen, J�nger, Meister,

und bauen dich, du hohes Mittelschiff.

Und manchmal kommt ein ernster Hergereister,

geht wie ein Glanz durch unsere hundert Geister

und zeigt uns zitternd einen neuen Griff.

We are all workmen: prentice, journeyman,

or master, building you - you towering nave.

And sometimes there will come to us a grave

wayfarer, who like a radiance thrills

the souls of all our hundred artisans,

trembling as he shows us a new skill.

Rainer-Maria Rilke



In the summer of 1993, while walking around in the old city of Lhasa, I became witness to the demolition of the Surkhang mansion, a large traditional building probably 300 years of age and located at a prominent corner of Lhasa's ancient Barkor Street. The demolition made me notice the immense transformation that the old city was just beginning to go through. I had visited Lhasa on several occasions before, and thought the old houses to be virtually untouchable. Though they seemed to be in a fairytale-like sleep, I thought nothing would dare disturb them. I was proven wrong by the events of that summer.

Together with my very old friends, Pimpim from Portugal, Moritz, Sylvester and Alex from Berlin, and Andrew from Keswick, that same year we founded the Lhasa Archive Project (LAP) with the aim to study and document all aspects of the Lhasa old city: the architecture, the history, and the social structures. In this respect, the Lhasa Archive Project has collaborated on related research projects with Berlin's F.U. University (Dept. of Geography), Trondheim University (Inst. f. Byggekunst), the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, the Paris-based Shalu Association, and recently with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Dept. of Architecture). The LAP system of data collection has been used in class by the Hochschule der Kuenste Berlin (Faculty of Architecture).

The first years of our work had been a case of chronicling a sad demise. Since 1993, every year on average 35 historic buildings in the old city were torn down, Lhasa having lost more than 150 irreplaceable historic buildings in the process. But the case was not entirely hopeless: we found the issue of preserving the old city was also being widely discussed in Lhasa. By teaming up with those factions who pleaded for preservation, the Tibet Heritage Fund (THF) was founded in 1996.

Since then, as a non-profit organisation, we have spent almost two years on studying the conditions in the old city, identifying the main problems and trying to devise solutions. We have begun the rehabilitation of historic neighbourhoods and carried out several pilot projects already. Finally in mid-1998, a list with most of the last remaining old buildings was accepted for official listing by the municipality.

More people have joined our team since the early days. I would like especially to mention John Harrison, whose wonderful drawings can be found throughout this report, and Margaret Miller, who had a close look at Lhasa's gutters for us.

The present publication presents some of the findings of our initial studies of the old city and Lhasa traditional architecture (chapters 1-5). Chapter 6 describes the current conservation area rehabilitation programme. Chapters 7 - 9 deal with further activities by THF, and the last chapter names all the people and organisations who contributed to the project and to this report.

Special thanks must here be made to Trace Foundation (New York), who have made the existence of this project possible.

Andr� Alexander, Hong Kong, July 1998

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Report: Table of Contents

Asian Arts | Associations | Tibet Heritage Fund Main