The Glorious Architecture of Bhutan
Architecture is a visual art that ravishes life through time. And the kingdom of Bhutan is a tale of culture, that is narrated high and low through the spectacular architecture. The buildings are rooted deep in tradition and follow a consistent Vernacular architectural pattern, retaining the individuality of every structure.
From an ordinary house to majestic mansions all structures display the most distinctive and exotic views. There are no architectural plans or layouts used for construction. All architectural styles- the impressive dzongs (fort- monasteries), Lhakhang (temples), cliff-hugging goembas (monasteries), chortens (stupas), farmhouses and bridges are sternly based on the traditional codes transcribed in the Driglam Namzha. The rules mentioned in this manual are cautiously supervened under an inspired lama.
Practicing Traditional Architecture.
Bhutanese structures are often made using native technique of wattle and daub, and materials like wood, stone and rammed earth. Surprisingly there has been no use of nails or iron in the past. But recently, steel has been introduced in the construction of areas like roofs to provide more strength and durability.
Alteration in material and technique can be observed with a change in location and elevation of deferent regions. Bamboo is a common material for construction throughout the country. Stone as a building material is suitable for higher altitudes. Houses in the west are made using rammed earth, pounded into wooden frames, dried for about a week and then limned with lime. The eastern valleys are wetter and tend to be steep, with settlements dredged directly into mountainsides. Stone is preferred in this region as opposed to the more prevalent rammed earth method of the west.
Featuring the different Architectural Styles.
Cull the Farmhouses.
These natural earth colour or whitewashed greeting homes are the best places to stay while traveling through Bhutan. These dwelling units are typical of the Drukpa people (the majority community). The architecture is a mixture of Tibetan and Chinese style. The orientation is towards southeast and planning is rectangular. The areas are zoned as Public: kitchen, semi-public: Prayer room, guest room, weaving room and storeroom, Private: bedroom. The walls are pierced by small beautiful wooden windows on the ground floor, with the size of openings increasing on the subsequent floors. The doors are nondescript, made in a tongue and groove design. The roofs are elevated and the attics are insulated with wooden mats, used usually for drying animal skin and chilies.
Impressive Dzongs of Bhutan.
The heart of Bhutan lies in its dzongs. These structures are strategically sited with regard to serve as a defensive fortress and were frequently built on hilltops, along major rivers. They have high masonry boundary walls, towering utse and multiple stories aligned around the central courtyards. They house the administrative and religious matters equally. There are residences of the monks, community halls, temples, and administrative offices. The dzong walls beautifully adorned with Buddhist paintings and inscriptions, with colourful motifs and frescoes. The windows are intricately carved in wood and increase in number and size with each floor. Some famous dzongs that should be in your list of places to visit are the Punakha Dzong, Paro Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, and Tashichho Dzong.
The holy structures: Lhakhangs and Goembas.
The design of Lhakhangs and Goembas are akin to Dzong architecture, with masonry walls painted in white and iconic Jabzhi roofs-the traditional sloping and elevated roof. The interior sight is a marvel to behold, where one cannot stop gendering at the beautiful statues of Buddha, the intriguing paintings, the rich colours used, the religious inscriptions on walls and pillars, granting a copious view.
The Chortens situated inside the Goemba complex are believed to be blessed structures. According to religious beliefs, it is considered auspicious to take clockwise rounds around the Stupas (chortens). They are erected as stone and mud structures, painted white and in square plans, similar to the Lhakhang and dzongs. The Chimi Lhakhang and National memorial Chorten are popular sites to be visited.
The linking Bridges.
Being an Alpine den, Bhutan has a contoured topography and fresh flowing rivers. Thus, keeping the natural environment intact, the circulation and connectivity in the built environment are achieved through bridges. The wooden bridges are mostly cantilevered, with on vertical support from below due to the fast-flowing rivers. There are numerous suspension bridges as well, with supports along with the vertical members connecting the bridge upwards. These strong and sturdy bridges have a history of carrying copious amounts of animals, supplies, and people.
Apart from its glorious architecture, imprinting on us its blessed memories. Bhutan has given the world a hope; hope to achieve what seems to be impossible in these difficult times of global warming. Bhutan is the Net Carbon Sink for more than 4 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. This small, under-developed country has amazed the world with its traditional and green architecture their promise to remain a Carbon Neutral country