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Preserving Tibetan Architecture
Pimpim de Azevedo

Trace has been a strong supporter of culture heritage work in Tibetan areas since its inception. One of the best and most dedicated organizations working in this field is Tibet Heritage Fund. Since 1996, we have provided this organization with $770,000 for community-based cultural preservation. Pimpim de Azevado, director of Tibet Heritage Fund, recently shared the following. 

In 1993, André Alexander witnessed the demolition of Surkhang House in Barkor Street, the heart of the old city of Lhasa. He realized the urgent need to document historic houses before they completely disappear, and to raise awareness of the ongoing demolition of the houses in the old city. The Lhasa Archive Project (LAP) was founded that same year.

But, as André said at the time, “documentation and research alone cannot save the old city of Lhasa from demolition.” In 1996, we chose the Trapshishar house in the Barkor, which was slated for demolition, as a pilot restoration project in the campaign for an alternative to the demolition of the traditional houses. During that time, Tibet Heritage Fund (THF) was founded in Lhasa, and later registered as an NGO in Berlin, Germany.
The generous financial support of Trace Foundation made possible the first pilot project that would launch THF’s work in the field of Tibetan architecture and conservation. Over the following years, Trace Foundation has supported THF’s projects in Lhasa and elsewhere in the Tibetan world.

Through our cooperation with Trace, THF could revive the traditional building techniques and the use of traditional materials; i.e., arga roofing, pembe-frieze making, and wall plastering. This was necessary for the restoration process, but more important was to transmit the knowledge and skills through the training of local craftsmen.

The support of Trace Foundation was very important from the start of the organization. We can say that many projects were made possible only with Trace Foundation’s support. Trace helped to preserve Tibetan architecture, improve people’s living conditions, and make local people proud of their own houses and culture. At same time, it provided them with a source of income by training them in building skills and special techniques, making it possible for them to find work and sustain their livelihoods.

THF’s experience cooperating with Trace Foundation is based on people and trust. The projects supported by Trace Foundation have a strong impact in the local communities and on people’s lives. Trace’s staff has good knowledge of the region (Tibet-Himalaya), what the needs of the local people are, and what will benefit the local people the most.

Trace supports projects that work and are meaningful to local people and communities.