The Phuentsholing Structure Plan 2013-2028, prepared based on the principles of smart growth, proposed urban design of the Bhutan Gate and the demolition of the Gol (round) Building in 2012. The demolition of the iconic building last year created a once-in-generation opportunity to look at the area from multiple perspectives and to come up with a plan that would enhance the image, economy and the built environment of Phuentsholing.
The new development in the area needs to be looked through the following perspectives:
1. Given its prime location in the heart of the city, temptations will be high to build another tall, typical copy of the building with maximum coverage and rent it out to maximise rental income. Such a plan will benefit the renting agency. However, it is an open secret that renting business in Phuentsholing has been closely associated with fronting.
2. The site housed one of the iconic structures and Bhutan Gate which is the physical reference of the structures that shaped the journey of modern Bhutan in the 1960s.
3. The site is located at the entrance to the thromde, often called a gateway to Bhutan. The completion of the new township in Amochhu and other local area plans will only make the “gateway” image even more unless. A new, grand entrance is made for the township in Amochu on the other side of Amochu.
Therefore, the demolition of the round building provides an opportunity to explore solutions that would complement the image, economy, and environment of the thromde and our country.
At present, most of the core area is cramped with old buildings and lacks a quality public space and urban greenery. The only green space in the entire thromde area is the Zangthopelri park. Therefore, developing the round building area as a Bhutan-India friendship garden will enhance the green, clean and GNH image of Bhutan. It will sanctify the place as launching place for Bhutan’s first five-year plan in the 1960s. Different shades of local/tropical flowers like the bougainvillaea which blooms for 3-4 months will bring the much-needed colours and greenery to the area. Incorporating convenient parallel parking for the city bus stop and connecting the area to all parts of the thromde, including the new township at Toorsa Tar will greatly help to reduce the use of cars in the thromde, as the vegetable market, shopping centres, hotels, banks, restaurants and Jaigoan are all within walking distance.
It is very common for our policymakers to quote examples of Singapore. One hopes that the Phuentsholing Thromde and the government will look into this option and bring a little bit of Singapore’s urban greenery concepts into the design proposal for the Bhutan Gate area with a long-term vision for the thromde and other motorable gateways for Bhutan.
QUT Design Lab