Our Space

Marpha Foundation’s physical home spans two historic buildings in the center of Marpha village. Over the course of six years, we collaborated with local artisans to creatively reimagine and carefully renovate these spaces into contexts for rhythmic learning. Today, our Rosehips Center for Creative Learning and Sunchance Garden House offers classrooms, a library, art studios, an atrium for movement and meditation, a kitchen lab for food and plant-based experimentation, residential facilities, and an organic garden.

A History of Use

Constructed in three levels, the Rosehips Center building is a classic example of Thak Khola architecture prevalent in lower Mustang. On the ground floor, there is a central courtyard with adjoining cattle shed and storeroom. Marphali originally used these spaces to keep domesticated animals, firewood, and compost. This is also where families kept their winter kitchen and where they toasted grains to mill into flour or make into local spirits. The first floor housed the summer kitchen, storerooms, sleeping rooms, and the family ceremonial room (room of the ancestors). A steep carved ladder led to the flat mud roof and adjoining attic, which capitalized on the fierce southern winds to dry meat, legumes, grains, and grasses. Many homes in Marpha maintain their original design and function, and up until the early 2000s, our building was no exception.

Renovation

When the local Lalchan family’s matriarch passed away, her children continued to maintain vital parts of the house, but the space was largely vacant for over a decade. In 2013, we rented two of its small rooms. As our programs grew, we gradually occupied more of the building, carefully adapting the traditional architecture to our contemporary needs. We created larger and brighter mixed-use spaces while preserving the original log beam ceilings, wood floors, and hand-hewn columns. In 2017 we signed a second lease and began the thoughtful renovation of a historic Hirachan home located right across the street from the Rosehips Center.

Changes in layout and the design and fabrication of all the Foundation’s furniture were made possible through close relationships with local craftspeople. Ideas emerged at a middle ground between established ways of building and a departure from familiar designs. Together, we used local materials, many salvaged from the building itself, to create versatile objects and spaces that accommodate the Foundation’s diverse activities while honoring Thak Khola architecture’s impressive precedent.

What’s in a name?

The Rosehips Center for Creative Learning takes its name from the fruit of the wild rose bush that grows throughout our valley. It was our students who first introduced us to the small red and orange fruit. They would give us these gifts by the handful, showing us how to eat the thin sweet flesh while avoiding the inedible seeds.

Despite rosehips’ many medicinal properties, the village elders have no history of using the plant. So we wondered, where did our students learn to eat them? After looking around, we noticed goats and their kids foraging for the small fruit in the low shrubs. Aha! But still, these four-legged teachers ate the rosehips whole. When we asked our students how they knew to nibble the thin flesh, some said they had learned from older siblings, while others admitted they ate the seeds and realized they were just no good!

Identifying with this story – a narrative of curious children learning from experience – we decided to name our space the Rosehips Center for Creative Learning, a name whose story acknowledges that our students are our teachers as well.

 

Marpha Foundation

Marpha Foundation

Marpha Foundation