April 14, 2019
Sonam Tenzin is a 25-year-old project engineer working at the Wangduechhoeling Palace restoration site. He was born in Wangduechhoeling village—the home of his mother’s family. Sonam’s grandfather served at the palace during the reign of the Second King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck (1926-1952). Sonam’s family was one of the three families who conducted yearly rituals at the palace for the entire Wangduechhoeling community to honor the local deities of the village.
After completing his degree at the Jigme Namgyel Engineering College in Dewathang, Sonam worked on new construction projects in Thimphu but hoped to return to his village to help his parents. Once the restoration at the palace began, Sonam was able to secure a job as the site engineer and return to Wangduechhoeling. The restoration of the palace was a whole new experience for Sonam because he had not previously worked in restoration and conservation of old heritage sites. This presented a challenge for him, but he was eager to learn. Now, having worked at the site for three years, Sonam has learned new techniques for restoring historic heritage sites and buildings.
“I learned a whole new set of skills because restoration work is not easy . . . conservation and restoration of old heritage sites is very important for my generation to learn so that older architectural heritage sites can be preserved.” —Sonam Tenzin
He shared, “We do not need to tear down the whole building and build a brand new structure anymore; we can use conservation efforts to restore old buildings and heritage sites.” Sonam is confident that he can carry out similar work for other sites across the country.
The techniques and skills Sonam has learned in the last three years have enabled and inspired him to take a keen interest in conservation. After completion of the restoration work, he hopes to continue working at the Wangduechhoeling Palace as a conservator and would like to pursue further education in this field. He is also very excited that he may have the opportunity to serve in the palace like his grandfather did decades ago. Sonam hopes that, in the future, the local Wangduechhoeling community can use the palace as a public space, and he also hopes that the yearly rituals the three families performed to honor the local deities can be replicated within the walls of the palace to continue its traditions.