Culture: The Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Paro, Trongsa and Dagana dzongs have been nominated for the first ever World Heritage tentative list of Bhutan,
The culture department’s conservation of heritage sites division head, Nagtsho Dorji, said the UNESCO has encouraged the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritages around the world.
“The five dzongs witnessed significant political events and cultural development throughout the history after the unification of the country,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
She explained that these dzongs have witnessed important historical events and continue to do so. She said that these dzongs today hold a significant status and illustrate the peak of collective architectural achievements of the people of the country.
“However, the dzongs are in the tentative list and currently, we are deliberating with experts from the World Heritage and Reconstruction on this issue,” she said.
The submission to the tentative list was announced during a workshop on structural issues related to traditional Bhutanese buildings especially dzongs, held on December 24 in Thimphu.
The workshop aims to deliberate on measures to strengthen and reinforce traditional Bhutanese buildings among the experts from different countries that have similar and rich traditional architecture.
“To receive concrete recommendations on such measures, the department has identified Wangduephodrang dzong and focused on structural issues related to reconstruction of the dzong after it was destroyed by fire on June 24, 2012,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
Built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and largely extended in 1683 by Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgye, the dzong has stood the test of time. Having retained its history through hundred of years, the dzong stood as an epitome of Bhutanese traditional architecture.
“Therefore, cautious measures and strategic planning are necessary during its reconstruction,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
The department is placeing high importance in retaining the existing walls left by the fire and in order to rebuild the dzong at the original location, it will be rebuilt over the existing surviving walls.
“Therefore, it is critical to examine strength of the remaining walls and look into appropriate and feasible measures to strengthen and reinforce the dzong’s stone masonry walls in the manner of respecting traditional materials and techniques,” she said.
Experts were invited to present recommendations and to identify measures for the remaining wall as well as new walls to be constructed.
“The reconstruction works began immediately after the command by His Majesty the King during the same year and the works are expected to complete in 2018, at the end of the 11th Five Year Plan,” she said.
The project team has been undertaking the reconstruction of the southern end of the building, since October last year.
However, for the reconstruction, the design also includes increase in height of some buildings and partial extension of dzong’s outline.
“For this design, we need more deliberation and concrete decision should be reached whether such changes from the original design will impact the stability of the buildings or not,” an official said.
At the end of the reconstruction, the dzong is required to house 15 shrines, living spaces for around 100 monks and office spaces for more than 30 different sectors of the Wangduephodrang administration.
Experts from Italy, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, UK, Portugal and India presented their recommendations to the guests, stakeholders including the steering committee members for the Wangduephodrang dzong reconstruction project chaired by home minister Damcho Dorji during the workshop.
By Thinley Zangmo