With the groundwork done, work will begin soon for the project to complete by 2018 end

Heritage: In commemoration of the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Wangduecholing Palace, the birthplace of the first Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck will be restored for adaptive reuse.

The documentation phase and the preliminary adaptive reuse plans of the project were completed in August 2014, department of culture (DoC) architect, Karma Tenzin said.  The US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (India) and the Bhutan Foundation supported the documentation.

Wangduecholing palace complex comprises the central tower (utse) surrounded by periphery buildings on all four sides (shakor).  In addition to the main palace, the complex houses other important structures within the grounds, such as chhukhor manis (prayer wheel), choeten maap (stupa), the bacho (archery ground) and the Lingka lhakhang (temple).  The Second King, Jigme Wangchuck, later built the shakor and Lingka lhakhang.

According to DoC officials, the project worth Nu 300 million is essentially aimed at conservation and restoration of the historic monument, hailed as the birthplace of Bhutan’s monarchy.

“Once restored to a museum, the palace is expected to educate visitors on the significant aspect of Bhutan’s history, from where the country entered to a peaceful kingdom under Wangchuck dynasty from a warring feudal state,” Karma Tenzin said.

The architect said that the palace would serve as an important link to a pre-modernisation that revolved around Buddhist tradition and culture.

“This project will also serve as an example of a successful adaptive reuse concept, at a time when traditional structures are in danger of being replaced by new constructions for economic gains,” the architect said.

The project will set an example for rehabilitation of heritage sites using a bottom up approach, where communities are extensively consulted for the end results, he said.

The restoration works will commence in following months. The DoC, in coordination with Bumthang dzongkhag, will implement the project.  The project will be implemented phase wise and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Wangduecholing Palace, the only authentic palace in Bhutan, was built by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel in 1856.

Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, during the first half of the 20th century, first restored the palace with traditional aesthetic design.  The palace, by virtue of being the birthplace of the first Druk Gyalpo, Ugyen Wangchuck, also marks an important landmark in the history of the Wangchuck dynasty.

“It bears a special and important place in history, as it significantly marks an era of peace and stability in the country that has continued to this day,” Karma Tenzin said.

Her Majesty  Gyalyum Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck launched the restoration project on March 29.

Bhutan Foundation is supporting the project with financial assistance.

By Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang