25 June 2013

Wangdue Dzong Design

Today, 24 June 2013, is the first anniversary of Wangdue Dzong Fire disaster, which seemingly was forgotten too quickly by many Bhutanese, including media. Disasters across the world are remembered for ages and each anniversary they find out how much people and things have moved on, but today there was nothing about Wangdue Dzong in newspaper nor on television, perhaps we have moved on so much that there is nothing to reflect on or recount about.

I am as insignificant as any one of you when it comes to having any stake in the reconstruction of the Dzong with a contribution of just a few thousand Ngultrum, but having seen the disaster firsthand it created a lasting impression on me. I often have nightmares. I see the ruins everyday and everyday I am reminded of that fateful day. Everyday I wonder how the new dzong would be like, everyday I design the new dzong in my head, and everyday I wish if someone could consider my design.lol.
Today, on the first anniversary I would like talk about my wishes for the new Wangdue Dzong. I have seen demolishing work in progress and I have heard of timbers be readied for the construction. I also know many great architects are putting their head together in coming up with the most magnificent design for new dzong. But at the back of my head I am deeply worried they might land up replicating Zhabdrung's design because I know how literally we relate Dzongs to Zhabdrung.
Today when we look at a Dzong, it relates us to Zhabdrung and his times, of people and their lives in seventeenth century. Hundreds of years from now when people look at Wangdue Dzong, they should be able to relate to us in twenty first century, and our lives. It must tell history of our Kings and not of Zhabdrung, because it's not the Dzong from Zhabdrung's time, it's built during the reign of our Fifth king and it's must be the history of our time. There are many other Dzongs that will tell tales of Zhabdrung. The purpose of Dzong has changed completely.
Wangdue Dzongkha Office after Fire-An Example

In this light, let's define 21st Century Dzong. It's must be a modern state of art with technology that defines our time. The walls need not be three meters thick anymore because we have no wars to fight now. The southern tower of the Dzong should accommodate a windmill to harvest the enormous power of wind that comes from there. The roof of the dzong should be made of solar panels to harvest solar energy.
The interior of the Dzong should house a theater for any form of art and cultural performance, not restricting to just tshechu. Royal Textile Academy infrastructure in Thimphu is a great example. It should have an international standard conference hall to host any regional and international meetings. The basement should have space for storage and parking, and access road to any part of the dzong, incase of emergencies like the last fire.
As museum is a must in the Dzong with outlet for handicraft sales that can showcase Bhutanese history and art to our people and to the outside world. National Library should find a space in new Wangdue Dzong too.
One pressing question is, should Dzong be housing all the Dzongkhag offices? I recently visited Wangdue Dzongkhag office, which is temporarily set up in Dzongkhag Choekhang, where a huge hall is divided into cubicles. It looked like a international corporate office, fine example of how future Dzongkhag office should be. And it can be outside the Dzong so that security and safety could be maintained easily.
The future Dzong should not waste space like it does now, it should create spaces that will generate revenue to sustain itself for all times to come- like Theater, Museum, Handicraft, Conference Hall, and Library. It should be the most sort-after public space ever seen in Bhutan.
It may take billions of Ngultrum but it's worth investing because Dzong are not built everyday. In building this Dzong we are writing the history of His Majesty the King and people of his time on the face of time. It must be the greatest structure ever built in Bhutan. So much I wish for...


  1. A creative architectural writing. Literally, purposes of Dzongs have changed as you mentioned.
    Hope, the wind of your message will blow those technical experts and architects.
    And of course, let our wishes come true to have the Dzong standing magnificently again.

  2. I am a day late to see this post and I am indeed part of it for forgetting this important day-the destruction of Wangduephodrang Dzong, the painful history in the making.
    I too join you Passu Sir to hear this news out and let all the voices be with you.


  3. PaSsu, you hit the nail bang on the noggin! Drawing inspiration from your article, I want to do an article on the same subject but I am not sure that I am in the right frame of mind. I have been consumed by frustration and disgust at what four of our aspiring leaders did. Should I not be able to write my piece, let me assure you that I absolutely agree with you.

    Although it is clearly inferred, you do not actually say it - I have said it and I have not changed my mind on it. The Dzong of your design specifications should be built else where more accommodating and spacious. The old Dzong of Zhabdrung should be left untouched - to remind how Zhabdrung did his Dzongs.

    Let us not try to best Zhangdrung but at the same time, let us accept that his designs no longer make make sense in the modern times.

  4. I agree the dzong should have some modern touches but at the same time i think the architectural designs should remain the same coz it is a part of our countries history.This is just my opinion.As u have mentioned abt the windmill i felt tht i need to let u know tht ADB(Asian Development Bank) has approved a grant to construct a windmill energy farm n wangdi has identified as the perfect location for constructin the windmill energy farm, as I work in Bhutan Power Corporation n m involved in this project n we r executing the project on behalf of RGOB.This is just a pilot project n the project time is 18 months but will b upgraded afterwards.It will b constructed at Rubesa, near the RNR office.The plan was to install 4 wind mills but the land owners were not ready to give their land so only 2 windmills will b installed n the energy generated will be tapped to the grid at Lobesa substation.

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  6. Sir, You shared your vision with me. Perhaps, Now that I get it clearly, I should show you one of my works in my offices. From there, we can work out on proposal in 3-D. It might take months, and we shall just have an image that you always wanted. Two times I have disappointed you when you asked my help, I hopefully home that the third time will not come. I salute your ideas, but not many will digest it.


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