April 28, 2020
Now begins the largest undertaking yet as the scope of the Wangduechhoeling Palace Project transforms and repurposes the birthplace of Bhutan’s monarchy into a museum, educational, and cultural heritage site. The palace will become a model for an adaptive re-use of an old heritage site and building for modern use, with proper fire mitigation strategies in place and accessibility for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.
Over the past few years, the community in Bumthang has witnessed major restorat restoration of the Wangduechhoeling Palace, including replacing rotted foundational beams beams and restoring the exterior and interior paints with authentic mineral rock pigment pai paints. While restrictions in place on social distancing have halted construction work on the project for the time being, we are aiming to begin the largest undertaking yet as teams in DC and Thimphu prepare to enter the third phase of the restoration and re-use project in 2021. This exciting stage is where the future of the palace will take shape with help from experts in global heritage preservation, curatorial design, and future sustainability. Throughout this phase, a major component will include capacity building of Bhutanese curators, conservators, and designers on how to adapt an old building to new use. In addition, expertise from the Global Heritage Fund, a new partner of the Bhutan Foundation, will support the exploration of future sustainability programs and vision for the site. This key component will help train Bhutanese conservators to address the need for future planning and programs.
Simultaneous to the museum planning and design, proper fire mitigation and detection systems are in development thanks to a recent award from the Prince Claus Fund and the Gerda Henkel Foundation under the Emergency Preparedness for Cultural Heritage under Threat initiative. This program will help develop plans to reduce fire-related hazards, which remains the biggest threat to heritage sites during the restoration period in Bhutan and around the world. In addition, building universal accessibility will also become a key component of the palace, allowing access to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities throughout the space. The palace building will become a model for fire-safety measures and universal design for the rest of the country, as they still remain an issue for buildings throughout Bhutan.