Professor Götz Hagmüller

Prof. Götz Hagmüller
Name Prof. Götz Hagmüller
Born 1939
Address Vienna
Nepal visit 1968
Education Film and Television at the Academy of Fine Arts (Vienna), 1962
Architecture from the Technical University in Vienna, 1966
Studies in Urban Development Planning at the London University, 1972
Major Work Cultural Heritage Preservation
Projects Bhaktapur Development Project, 1979-83
Swayambhunath Conservation Master Plan, 1982-97
Patan Durbar Conservation and Museum Project, 1986-97
Garden of Dreams, 2001-2007
Major Contribution Reconstruction of Historic monuments like Chyasilin Mandal, Patan Durbar, Garden of Dreams, Kutu Math.

Incorporation of traditional components with modern steel structure

Achievement “Gorkha Dakshin Bahu” by King Birendra of Nepal, 2001
The title of “Professor” from the Austrian government
“Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art”

Professor Götz Hagmüller first visited Nepal in 1968 and again returned in 1969 as a researcher while working for the UN (FAO) as a regional housing expert. He conducted research on the housing situation as well as the use of wood in public housing. This research took him all the way to the Far East of Nepal. On this trip to Nepal, he had the opportunity to explore important historic monuments in the Kathmandu Valley, some of which he later contributed to in restoration and reconstruction.

In Nepal, he worked as a project manager for the Bhaktapur Development Project from 1979-83, project coordinator for the Swayambhunath Conservation Master Plan from 1982-97, chief architect and project coordinator for the Patan Darbar Conservation and Museum Project from 1986-97, consultant for the Patan Conservation and Development Program from 1991-94 and chief architect for the restoration of the Garden of Dreams (of Kaiser Mahal) from 2001-2007. Besides these projects, he was also engaged in various other bilateral projects.

Born in 1939 in Vienna, the Austrian architect is a profound contributor and one of the pioneers of Cultural Heritage Conservation of Nepal. He graduated from the Technical University in Vienna in 1966 with a degree in architectural studies and studies in urban development planning from London University in 1972. His restoration work at the Patan Museum in the Patan Durbar Square and the Garden of Dreams at Kaiser Mahal is an inspiration to architects and designers alike. As a cultural heritage preservation expert and counselor for various international aid agencies, he has assisted in the restoration of over 200 heritage sites in Stockholm, Vienna, West Africa, Bangkok, Rome, India, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan, and Nepal.

He is also a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts (Vienna) in Film and Television and has produced TV and radio documentaries related to South America, East Asia, and Africa. Among his works are the Yoruba Shrines of Osogbo in Nigeria (1968), Austrian Aid in Latin America (1973), films entitled ‘Krank’, and ‘Gehorsam’ on the state of the Austrian Public Health System in 1974 and 1975, and a movie-film titled ‘Kanga Mussa’(1976). He was also designated as the Chairman of the Austrian Filmmakers Syndicate from 1977-78.

Internationally, he was engaged in projects such as urban conservation projects in Salzburg and Vienna, designing office buildings in Sweden, and performed research for the United Nations (UN) in Africa and Far East Asia. He was actively involved in the preservation of cultural heritage all over the world, including Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Luang Prabang in Laos. He also designed the National Reza Shah Pahlavi Library in Tehran. Throughout his career, he was designated with many important positions, including Regional Housing Expert for the UN (FAO) in Bangkok and Rome, consultant for UNIDO/UNDP in Chad (country in North Central Africa), IG Spittelberg board member, and Austrian Architects Association board member.

He spent a year in Bangkok and two years in Rome while working for the UN. In 1972, he worked as a consultant for UNIDO/UNDP in the Republic of Chad and conducted a feasibility assessment on the industrial use of papyrus in architecture and interior design. Beginning in 1970, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Vienna for five years. He undertook advisory assignments in Laos and Angkor Wat, Cambodia in between, in 1991, 1992, and 1996. From 2005 to 2008, he worked as the project architect for the restoration and rebuilding of Tongsa’s Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone watchtower of five storeys. Later the old watchtower was transformed into the “Tower of Trongsa Museum.”

He returned back to Nepal in 1979 after a decade as the project manager for the Bhaktapur Development Project (BDP). This was the first more comprehensive urban conservation program in Nepal undertaken with German assistance. He was involved in the conservation of historic buildings, as well as urban planning, infrastructure, and sanitation. Some of the outstanding features of the project were the planning of brick-paved streets, sanitation and drainage, repair of the old stone sprouts and ponds, conversion of public spaces into museums, introduction of a fee structure to enter the heritage site, conversion of the area into a vehicle free zone and coordination between the Municipality, Local Community and German Government.

Through the project, he met Niels Gutschow, a crucial contributor and a pioneer in the restoration of Pujari Math. They collaborated on a number of projects with the Department of Archaeology of the then His Majesty’s Government of Nepal (DOA) (now Government of Nepal) and German and Austrian funded projects. Among their many accomplishments are the restoration of Cyasilin Mandap, Swayambhunath Conservation Master Plan (1989), and Patan Durbar Conservation and Museum Project. They were also involved in the first exploration of the architectural heritage of the Upper Mustang.

Their major achievement was the reconstruction of the 17th CE Chyasilin Mandap (1987-90) in Bhaktapur Durbar Square, which was destroyed in the 1934 earthquake. The mandap was rebuilt from scratch relying on a few carved panels, engravings, and watercolor drawings and photographs. The watercolor drawings of the Schlagintweit brothers, British Doctor Henry Ambrose Oldfield, and Daniel Wright, as well as photographs taken by Gustave Le Bon in 1885, Percy Brown in 1905, Tibetan scholar Giuseppi Tucci, and the court photographer Ganesh Chitrakar were the main source of reference.

During the reconstruction, traditional tools and construction technologies were used incorporating retrieved original old timber pillars and beams of the mandap. However, to make the structure earthquake-proof, a steel skeleton was incorporated into the structure. Despite the use of steel skeletons, the ornate outer walls were entirely handcrafted by local artisans with traditional designs and patterns to add authenticity. This entire reconstruction process of the Pavilion was recorded in the documentary film “Three years of Building with Joy.”

After finishing the reconstruction of Chyasilin Mandap, Hagmüller worked as the project coordinator for the Swayambhunath Conservation Master Plan (1982-97) and as a consultant to the DOA for this project. The project was developed in collaboration with the DOA and the Austrian Institute of International Cooperation (IIZ). Later he also worked as a consultant for the Patan Conservation and Development Program (1991-94) and joined the UNESCO/ICOMOS Monitoring Mission on the Kathmandu World Heritage Site in 1993. He was involved in the restoration and earthquake-reinforcement project proposal for the historic Palace of 55 Windows also known as Pachpanna Jhyale Durbar in Bhaktapur from 1993-96.

His longest and most challenging project was the Patan Durbar Conservation and Museum Project (1986-97). A major part of the historic Malla Royal Palace (Keshav Narayan Chowk) was restored and transformed into the current Patan Museum. The project was developed in collaboration with the DOA and IIZ. The museum is spread across Keshav Narayan Chowk, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, and Bhandarkhal Garden in the Palace Complex of Patan Durbar Square, displaying various collections related to Hinduism and Buddhism. The museum has received international recognition for its rehabilitation, reconstruction, and transformation effort. It is also commended for its semi-autonomous status, exclusive collection, and presence of amenities such as café, museum shop, guest studio, and rental spaces that enabled the museum to be economically self-sustained.

Following the completion of the Patan Museum project, Hagmüller was involved in the restoration of the neoclassical garden: Garden of Dreams (2001-2007) in the Kaiser Mahal along with his wife Ludmilla Hungerhuber. This is his most recent project in Nepal undertaken with the support of IIZ in collaboration with the Nepal Ministry of Education. The garden is a peaceful oasis amidst the chaotic touristic hub Thamel.

One of his personal, never-ending, but must mention projects is the ancient pilgrims lodging, Kutu Math in Bhaktapur. When Hagmüller arrived in Kathmandu in 1979 as the head of BDP, he found a home in an old 18th CE Math that captivated him with its intricate wood carvings and unique Newari architecture. He rented the Math within a week and made it his permanent home and personal laboratory, where he tested his ideas and theories. Since then he has been living and working in Nepal with assignments in various bilateral projects.

Hagmüller was presented with the Royal Medal of “Gorkha Dakshin Bahu” by King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah (Nepal) in 2001. He also received the honorary title of “Professor” from the Austrian government and the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art by Austrian Chargé d’Affaires Georg Zehetner. For his design of the National Reza Shah Pahlavi Library in Teheran, he was awarded second prize in an international competition in 1977. His best-known film, “Kanga Mussa: an African emperor’s legendary pilgrimage from Mali to Mecca,” (1976) won awards at international film festivals and was shown on Austrian and other countries’ cultural cinemas.

He has also published a book entitled: Patan Museum -The Transformation of a Royal Palace in Nepal (2002) as well as two volumes of memoirs entitled: A Picture Book of my Life Vol. 1 &2 (2017). The book provides detailed documentation of the planning and the process of transformation of the historic palace building of Patan Durbar. The contents related to the historicity of the Patan Durbar Conservation and Museum Project are accompanied by referencing photographs and maps in minute detail. The memoir, on the other hand, describes his architectural work and life. It is expected to be a guide for heritage preservation. The book delves into the relationship between forms and functionals in design and architecture as well as their interdependence.

Hagmüller, G.(2002). Patan Museum: The Transformation of a Royal Palace in Nepal. Serindia.
Himalaya Socanth
ECS Feature
The Nepali Times

Feature Photo: Hayo

Author: Meena Lama

I am an enthusiast of art, culture, heritage and history.

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