Himalesque is a broadcast radio station situated 3,000 meters above sea-level, and built in the lap of the Himalayas in Nepal.
This radio station blends in so well with its surroundings that one will be forgiven niggling thoughts of some clever camouflage being at play here. To start with, the setting is mind-bogglingly spectacular. These are the mighty Himalayas, and they circle this 1,500 sq. mt. site in all glory.
The terrain is tough and ever-changing, and demands extreme preparedness for survival. On this site, 3,000 metres above sea level, is Himalesque, a radio broadcast station that can confidently claim to be beaming live from the top of the world. The one-storied, sprawling structure is home to the Mustang Broadcasting Community (MBC).
The Seoul-based firm, Archium Architects, was commissioned by MBC and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), to design Himalesque, and the team, led by veteran architect Kim In-Cheurl, planned and executed the project with an acute awareness of the local conditions.
The stone exterior is a highly sensitive touch, because it sets up a façade that seems a continuation of the existing greyness of the terrain of the town of Jomsom, in western Nepal. The stone walls, with their stacked-up appeal, exude something primal, a perfect micro atmosphere to have been built at the site.
Walking through the corridors, on the flat stone floor, facing broody stone walls, and down the stone staircase, it will be difficult not to observe the contradictions of hue and texture with the august natural setting. The mountains and the changing skies seem always within reach, and the gentle streams of sunshine that run down the minor monolithic stone walls are like cascades. Adding to the rugged feel is the series of columns that surround a sunlight-washed atrium.
It was Archium’s express strategy to make the most of local know-how and materials. For centuries, the homes of the local populace have been protected against the torrid winds, biting cold, and unabashed sunlight, by thick rock walls. This impermiability is at work at Himalesque as well. The stout walls form a barrier to the sometimes unforgiving natural forces of the Himalayas, but for the station itself, it is a highly inspired aesthetic addition.
“Site conditions facing strong winds with changing directions, from rainy seasons to dry seasons, and environmental conditions require that a cool, unheated space is maintained, in spite of the extreme daily temperature differences, reorganized by contemporary methods with local materials,” affirms the team.
The effect goes up a notch when viewed in contrast to the 8mm thick THK glass that bulwarks the interiors. This is a relatively modern touch, but instead of jarring, it complements rather well. It also splits the natural and the synthetic light into interesting shadows, also acting as collecting bowls of ochre light in certain spots.
Strings of Buddhist prayer flags, tied to the main reception tower, form a pious cone above the atrium, and bring in some fluttering colour credentials.
Most of the seating and tables are stone too, albeit with an unchiselled feel to them that screams avant garde. There is a smattering of wooden detail, mainly to support the glass swathe. Natural light is abundant, and even in the cavernous rooms, it swoops in like divine communication. In short, this building is a cosy ensconce in the pit of the most awe-inspiring mountain range in the world.
It has a fortified skin, but it has mellow spots of illumination within that are as subtle as pockets of candle-light. These ‘gaps’ are crucial to making this building homely. A little garden fosters in these gaps too, forming slender bridges between the outside and the inside. What else is ‘Himalesque’ if not an exemplary marriage of the rough and the delicate?
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy Jun Myung-Jin