Transforming Craft Traditions: Past, Present and Future Relevance of Vernacular Craft and Craftsmanship in the Trans-Himalayan Region of India

Deldan Angmo1

1School Of Architecture, University Of Queensland, , Australia

The unique traditions of vernacular craftsmanship within the Asian Trans-Himalayan region intertwine the architectural syntax of construction and ornamentation with the comprehension of cultural landscape alongside social and spiritual practice. This paper examines how this craftsmanship is more about design as a ‘process’ rather than as ‘product’ whereby craftsmen create spaces, buildings, and artefacts in the conception of the vernacular through observations, practices and learning from the masters, both real and legendary. Within this concept, the paper illustrates the transformations that the craftsmen bring forth within the conventions of craft owing to the recent economic, climate and social changes inherent in people’s lifestyle and needs. It specifically examines the collective resource of craft knowledge and skills, acquired by these craftsmen both via tacit learning and formal training, towards illustrating how these craft traditions have evolved and continually transforms over time. The aim is to investigate the role of the craftsmen – often overlooked within studies of vernacular – to comprehend the meaning, process and relevance of craft tradition and re-establish its continuity from the past into the present and into the future.


Deldan Angmo undertook her architectural studies in India. She completed her master’s course in ‘Conservation of Historic Buildings’ at the University of Bath, (UK). As a conservation architect, she has gained extensive practice experience over the years in restoring historic vernacular buildings including 11th-century Buddhist temples, Stupas and residential buildings.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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