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Continuity and Change in

Bhutanese Architecture :

Research Thesis

School of Architecture, CEPT University



Over a period of time traditional Bhutanese Architecture has attained a character of its own through unique expressions of materials, structural system and iconography intertwined with Buddhism. This character bears a strong visual imagery and perception.

In the present times Bhutan has seen drastic changes in and around the country in economy, culture and society. The architectural character and the visual imagery associated with it has become one of the tools for Bhutan to preserve its national identity. The “traditional architecture guidelines ” , Architecture byelaws make sure that every building made in Bhutan contains the same visual imagery as created by traditional architecture.

This study explores the Attitudes towards architecture in the light of traditional architecture and the “traditional architecture Guidelines”. In the process it also explores reasons for change and reasons for continuity in the architecture of the country.

Ever since Bhutan started emerging out as a modern nation after a long period of self imposed isolation from the rest of the world, her culture in general and material culture specifically have been most affected. Most of the neighboring countries to Bhutan have witnessed dilution to their native traditional arts and crafts especially in the later part of Twentieth Century. In this light the government of Bhutan sees inundation of modern ideas and space- age technology  as a threat not only to its native arts and craft but also to its national identity.

Architecture of Bhutan has also been affected. New materials (in Bhutanese context) like RCC, steel, glass and bricks have made their way into Bhutan. These materials have fuelled the rapid growth of the cities and have become easily accessible through a network of metal roads. Like in India these materials are associated with virtues like durability (pucca), modern/ western appearance, quick construction etc. Various earthquakes in the Himalayan region make the choice of RCC sound very viable and strong.

Bhutan has over the past developed its own way of building. The traditional architecture of Bhutan, though influenced from Tibet, is unique in the region. The structure and materials of construction combined with iconography and decoration provide Bhutanese architecture with a distinct character. This architectural character was central to this study.

Often the architectural character is also associated with national identity and cultural integrity in Bhutan. This is the reason certain “traditional architectural features” are mandatory to be present on every building built in the country. There are rules called “the traditional architecture guidelines" to enforce “traditional architectural features”.

This has given rise to various attitudes towards architecture in the country. Since every building has to “look” traditional, there exist different approaches of making the building “look” traditional. As mentioned earlier there are new materials for construction which demand a different structural system with its own merits.

Concept to execution •  Abhinav Mishra


Arduino +  Unity

Other works :

Prefab deployable shelters :

Low cost shelters for easy deployment made out of engineered composite bamboo panels in Arunachal Pradesh

Rabong Monastery:

Details and working drawings of a monastery in Sikkim.

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