Sunday, August 04, 2019

Without Gol Building- Well-Tempered Phuntsholing

Gol Building was a fairy tale we used to hear from the handful of people from my village who had been to Phuntsholing during our childhood. It was the largest and the tallest building known to Bhutanese back then. The reputation lived on during recent times even after much bigger and taller buildings were built around it, perhaps out of nostalgia.

Picture I added on Google Maps in 2017
Built in 1968, the building dominated the landscape and stood as an iconic landmark right at the border gate, fascinating both Bhutanese and Indian for decades. However, by the time I saw the building, it has lost its glory, age showing all over it and completely neglected. Only recently, it got a fresh coat of brownish painted and began to glow again. But unfortunatly, it was like a dying person recovering for a brief moment before he takes his final breath; now it’s gone. Demolished. 
Gol Building as seen from across border

With the massive old structure removed, Phuntsholing town lost a part of its history but gained a big breathing space. Everyone who has ever been to Phuntsholing will miss the building that carried a formidable personality and been part of many personal and family tales. But the vast open footprint of the building will serve as a refreshing memorial of the great structure that has housed thousands of memories.


How I wish we had the option to preserve the building as a heritage site and convert it into a museum. With that opportunity reduced to dust and trucked away, the next best thing to ask for is a park, a green patch of refreshing space to escape from the suffocation of ever congesting town.

I read about the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHCDL)’s plan to built another massive structure there. From a commercial perspective that location is a gold mine, and therefore, it’s simple logic to think of building a massive commercial centre there, perhaps MBK of Bhutan. If it was a private property that’s what’s going to happen for sure.

But fortunately, it’s a government land and therefore we have the option to look beyond commercial aspect and use that space intelligently to transform Phuntsholing into a Well-Tempered City. Whatever big plans we had, MBK or Mustafa, can be taken to Phuntsholing Township Development Project among Amochu, where we have enough space for any ambitious project.

Phuntsholing Township Development Project, Amochu
However, should NHDCL pursue their plan and build a massive structure to replace Gol Building, we not only fallback to an ill-planned town but also congest the traffic beyond manageable limit. We then won’t be any different from Jaigoan.

For a visitor from North, when I first land in Phuntsholing the chaos there is almost unbearable but I begin to appreciate the significant difference when I cross the border to India and return in a while. Phuntsholing suddenly seems so quiet, pleasant, green and refreshing. I feel a sudden sense of security and peace. And that, ladies and gentlemen is what defines Phuntsholing, and that’s what defines Bhutan. Therefore, leaving that space for a green park will enhance that definition of a Bhutanese town. For a government organisation that’s far more important goal than any commercial growth. Moreover, once the Amochu Township flourishes, there is going to be a shift in centre and NHDCL would be grateful that they decided to build where the future is.

Commercially so, the new ambience of Phuntsholing will attract hundreds of neighbours to stroll through the park and dine in local cafés and restaurants, changing the pattern of inter-border spending, which was for the longest time only outward. For a country, economy should be looked at and tended to from a broader perspective and not from one organisation’s growth and benefit, if any. No organisation should think and act independently, we must go forward interdependently or fail.

A new building will overwrite the memories of Gol Building, but a park will forever be a tribute to the historic building that stood as witness to everything that has gone through Bhutan Gate to transform our country. 

2 comments:

  1. Park is great idea! In Thimphu, Taj Tashi looks very old and dusty from exterior (though I have never been inside) as compare to other great hotels. May be Tashi should demolish it and create something great out of it

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  2. While appreciating the proposal, I as one of the dwellers of Phuentsholing Town would like to bring to the notice of the author. The current ZangdoPelri zone in the core of Town always is clogged with Indians either taking selfie, dating, discussing something or just loitering around shouting to their peak and disturbing Bhutanese people from doing proper Koras and offering Prayers in the Lhakhang. It is clear chaos seeing 80% of people in the ZangdoPelri area at all times are Indians. So with this trend, a park in the then Gol-Building area will be true disaster. It just will provide room for human encroachment. Just my share of idea la. No any hard feelings though.

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