Background and Architectural Features of Vernacular Houses in East-Central Bhutan: A joint study Session with the Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) provides technical support and training for human resource development to the Department of Culture (DoC), Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan, to conserve vernacular houses. Since F.Y.2019, we have been entrusted with the Network Core Center Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA), which conducts joint architectural surveys with the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS) of the DoC and practical training for local stakeholders to ensure heritage conservation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pursue our mission remotely, by preparing reference books for governmental sectors and educational materials for schools. In F.Y.2021, although we were prepared to conduct a joint survey anticipating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, this did not materialize. As an alternative, we held an online joint study session with the DoC on March 7th, 2022.
Twenty-two people, including TOBUNKEN and DoC staff members, as well as external cooperative experts, attended the session. The Bhutanese side provided the latest information about the preliminary stage of the joint survey. Mr. Pema, a senior engineer of the DCHS, described the cultural and regional characteristics of Bhutan’s central and eastern regions, focusing on settlement patterns. Mr. Pema Wangchuk, an architect of the DCHS reported on the current situation of preparations for conducting fieldwork in the region. From the Japanese side, Professor AOKI Takayoshi of Nagoya City University, who has been conducting empirical research on earthquake resistance measures for historical buildings in Bhutan, gave a presentation on the structural characteristics of masonry buildings that are common in the region, highlighting the issues they face and methods for their conservation. We exchanged relevant know-how as joint survey team members through active discussions during each presentation. In addition, Mr. KUBOTA Hiromichi, head of the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section, and his collaborator, Mr. Phub Tshering from Mera, Tashigang, Eastern Bhutan, held a roundtable session on local daily life and folklore, which helped the Japanese attendees enhance their understanding of the region and customs.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to finish the ACA project by completing bookmaking, but we hope to launch a joint survey with DCHS as soon as the international travel bans are lifted.