Building technologies in Karakul

Marjolein Katsma

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Share this page Photo © 2009 Marjolein Katsma | Text © 2012 Marjolein Katsma


Tags for this photograph:
karakul, kara kul, qaraqul, murghab, murghob, gorno badakhshan, tajikistan, pamirs, gate, wood, old wood, wall, stone, boulder, granite, cob, mud, plaster, mortar, mud plaster, mud mortar, texture, building, construction, technology, solar panel, brown, blue


Karakul is just a small, remote village – there are no professional builders here, so most everyone builds their own house and extensions, using technologies passed on as part of their culture.

The main focus here is the gate, leading to the house’s courtyard. If you look closely, you can see it was cobbled together from an old door (part of a lock still dangling from it, and several other re-used planks, all put together with a few sturdy nails. Whoever built this didn’t know quite enough to make it into a rigid structure, so it’s sagging left and right – still, it serves the purpose.

On the left, a rough stone wall, build by stacking up boulders, kept together with mud mortar. Unlike the wood for the gate, these are building materials that can be found in the direct environment of the village. A stone wall like this can be sturdy, but could be made stronger by plastering it. For a wall surrounding a yard, that is not strictly necessary.

On the right, the much more ‘finished’ wall of the main house, fully plastered, apparently sitting on a foundation (likely of stone or even concrete). The plaster is mixed with some straw, but not quite enough to prevent some cracks forming – and it’s unpainted. It will need quite a bit of maintenance if kept like this. We cannot see what’s under the plaster, but it could be either stone (like the wall on the left), or adobe (preformed and sun-baked mud stone).

Through the gate, farther back, we see yet another building technology: a ‘cob’ wall. This is made of ‘balls’ of mud, stuck together with mud mortar. Quite good enough for enclosures. Such a wall could be made stronger by carefully mud-plastering it if needed.

In sharp contrast, through the gate we can just spy a little solar panel sitting on the roof.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

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Karakul Cultural Surfaces

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Artwork Comments

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