The Networking Core Centers Project for the Conservation of Traditional Buildings in the Kingdom of Bhutan
A final mission was sent to Bhutan from December 20 to 24 to conclude the Networking Core Centers Project for the Conservation of Traditional Buildings in the Kingdom of Bhutan. This project started in 2012 commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. A workshop was jointly organized with the Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of the Kingdom of Bhutan to sum up the project. The project sought to determine how to properly conserve traditional rammed earth buildings such as houses and to improve their ability to withstand earthquakes. Results of the studies of construction technique and structure of the buildings over the last 3 years were presented by both Bhutanese and Japanese members. The personnel involved also discussed prospects for future works that the Bhutanese side need to undertake. The workshop was co-chaired by the Director of the Department of Culture (the direct counterpart in this project) and the Director General of the Institute. The workshop was attended by relevant personnel from the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites of the Department of Culture as well as personnel from the Department of Disaster Management of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, the Department of Engineering Services of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, the Bhutan Standards Bureau, and the National Library of Bhutan.
The architectural study team conducted field surveys of about 60 houses and temples as well as ruins, abandoned villages, and new rammed earth building sites. Information on traditional construction techniques (including techniques to reinforce structures) was compiled based on the findings of those surveys and interviews with craftsmen. Standardized format for investigation and tentative building typology were reported during the workshop. The structural study team conducted materials tests, micro-tremors measurement and destructive load tests to overcome structural vulnerabilities stemming from earthquake damage. Based on the results, basic techniques for assessment of structural strength and simulations of structural analysis were presented. In addition, a medium to long-term road map was proposed to see what steps could be taken to continue those surveys in the future and also if those surveys would lead to the formulation of guidelines to determine structural stability. In the meantime, existing buildings are being lost. Methods of preserving those buildings were also discussed.
These joint surveys over the past 3 years are merely the prelude to understanding traditional construction techniques in Bhutan, and Bhutan has a long way to go in assessing the historical value of those structures and establishing techniques to properly preserving them. Bhutan is faced with the loss of its tangible and intangible cultural heritage due to natural disasters such as earthquakes and torrential rains as well as a mounting wave of urbanization. We hope Japan is able to assist Bhutan in safeguarding its cultural heritage, and to continue assisting the people of Bhutan in the future as well.