Cultural Exchange Project for the Conservation and Utilization of Historic Buildings in Bhutan (Part III）
From this Fiscal Year, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has started an Exchange Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to provide technical support and capacity building for the preservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. In 16th January 2020, as part of this project, TNRICP dispatched a team of six experts including three outside experts to participate the Workshop on Conservation of Lham Pelzom house organized by the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs.
Lham Pelzom house, located in Kabesa near the capital of Thimphu, is considered to be one of the oldest surviving farmhouses in the country, and is the top candidate for designation as historic farmhouses under Bhutan’s first comprehensive basic law on cultural heritage (New Law) which the government aims to pass. On the other hand, the house has been vacant for a long time, and its deterioration has been remarkable recently. Consequently, the need for preliminary consensus among stakeholders, such as the government, owners and local communities, on the potential for preservation and utilization is growing. Given this awareness, DCHS invited house owners, representatives of local communities, government officials from the Ministry of Work and Human Settlements, and Tourism Council to the workshop, for sharing various views on the conservation of the Lham Pelzom house. TNRICP joined the workshop for giving advice from the theoretical and technical point of view regarding heritage conservation.
In the first half of the workshop, from the standpoint of promoting heritage protection, TNRICP proposed conservation policies and restoration methods based on field research, and DCHS reported on how government support should be provided, including financial aspects. Contrary, from the standpoint of the bearer of actual preservation, house owners strongly requested the need to secure economic benefits through common adaptive use, and local communities emphasized the need for the active involvement of the government in preservation. However, they all understood and welcomed a high reputation as a cultural heritage in general. Subsequently, in the second half of the workshop, meaningful mutual discussions unfolded in the latter half of the workshop, based on opinions, aspirations, and grievances of each participant in the first half. Finally, participants agreed to promote the conservation of Lham Pelzom house as the following conditions.
(1) ACCELERATE procedures for value valuation as cultural heritage, such as designation under the new law,
(2) CLARIFY protection frameworks, including administrative support for restoration works and the house owner’s obligations to the preservation,
(3) CONSIDER a proposal for utilization that is appropriate as a cultural heritage and takes into account the house owner’s demand.
TNRICP will cooperate with DCHS and continue research activities and field surveys to realize the conservation of traditional farmhouses in Bhutan as cultural heritage.