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Ar. Binod Neupane

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tbculture 13 May 2022

Ar. Binod Neupane is one of the pioneers of Society of Nepalese Architects (SONA) and the profession of architecture in Nepal. Having played multiple roles throughout his career, Neupane stands as the guardian of the architecture fraternity and SONA itself.

Neupane completed his architecture degree from Belarusian Polytechnic University, Russia. Having enrolled into the course in pursuit of getting a ‘technical’ degree, Neupane was mesmerized when he realized that architecture is more than just ‘technical’. He spent 6 years in Russia, working long hours in the studio and frolicking around the Black Sea or playing with snow during vacations. His stay in Europe helped him develop an understanding that architecture is a form of self-expression and therefore, an art form. He admired the way in which traditional and modern architecture come together, exist independently as a whole and complement each other in Europe, and he wished to apply the learning in the context of Nepal.

Neupane returned to Nepal during the 1990s People’s Movement. Fresh out of college, he wanted to make a difference and make development reach all parts of the country. Neupane joined the Town Development Fund as an architect/engineer in 1990 and retired as the Director of the Project Management and Technical Assistance Department (PMTA) in 2016. Neupane worked with municipalities across the country to create self-sufficient, financially viable and site-specific design solutions for various infrastructure projects. Neupane observed the working methods of international stakeholders involved in the project only to realize that architecture is a ‘collaborative process’. Great architecture is not borne solely out of creative impulses, but also from sustained teamwork of architects, interior designers, landscape designers, engineers, contractors, draftsmen, investors and specialist suppliers. To implement this understanding into practice, outsourcing and collaboration was initiated in the Town Development Fund. Neupane believes handing over a part of the project to a third party specialized company not only prevents you from last minute hassle but also gives you more time to focus on important details of the project while enjoying it. With the development of new technological sharing platforms, new opportunities have arisen for collaboration and he suggests all budding architects should make the most out it.

Following his retirement in 2016, Neupane has been involved in the design, development and monitoring of various projects as the Team Leader. He continues to be involved in academics by teaching and working with the younger generation. What is your opinion of the younger generation’s understanding of architecture? Neupane excitedly begins “…I am incredibly impressed by the younger generation today who are enthusiastic about architecture and willing to make a difference”, but suddenly he pauses, thinks for a while and says with a sigh that students today try to incorporate technology to address the issue per say and focus on developing fancy 3D-visualizations and walkthroughs. He feels ‘art’ from ‘architecture’ is missing in their works.

Neupane laments the condition of architectural profession in Nepal. He says that the idea that shaped much of his early years- “Architecture: A form of Self-expression” has reduced to mere words used to sell designs and woo clients. The architectural expression and memory of Malla towns of Kathmandu Valley developed a specific understanding of the city for the onlookers. Art was expressed in its most abstract form. However, the present day dilapidated condition of Kathmandu Valley gives us a stark picture of how as architects, we have not been able to take a stand for our ethics and failed the profession as a group. He believes SONA has grown to become a strong community, and we should collectively make efforts, educate common people and clients, acquire the support of the government and raise our voices against unethical architectural practices.

Neupane is of the view that being an architect is an interesting and creative career. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. What Neupane has come to realize is that one of the major obstacles that most architecture students and architects bump into is- time management- there is a lot to do all the time. It means wearing a lot of different hats: you are part creative, manager, administrator, building permit expert and construction manager. While you may love architecture, the excessive burn out can have a drastic effect on your mental and physical health. Neupane suggests you should invest ‘1 hour’ every day on yourself and indulge in self-care activities like exercising, reading, writing and even dancing for that matter. The positive outcomes of this approach are quite evident- one can look at him and say nothing but, “60 and Fabulous!”

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