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Architecture of Bhutan

Bhutanese Architecture - Paro Taktsang
Paro Taktsang

Some of the earliest architectural structures in Bhutan are the Dzongs, which are buildings that served multiple purposes, including as fortresses, religious centers, and commercial hubs. These were most common in the 1600s and the government has made a strong effort to preserve many of these buildings. These are generally wood buildings that are a couple stories tall and contain a courtyard. Since this time all buildings in Bhutan have followed this same pattern and style.

The Dzongs and later buildings are generally divided by purpose despite all functions being performed under one roof. This is similar to Tibetan architecture as religious and political functions are commonly stationed in the same building, but divided as each room serves a single purpose.

In the 1800s the next significant building type emerged in Bhutan with the large houses built by the wealthy. However, the style changed little from the earlier Dzongs, except these were built for living and were generally only built by the local wealthy, limited the number ever built; these are primarily found in the country's west, in Bumthang, Paro, and Trongsa.

On a smaller scale, numerous houses were built and can still be seen in the cities of Paro and Thimphu with a little searching or aimless wandering. Few of these hold any historic significance and they display the same architectural features found in other buildings in the country. However, these houses vary much more than the Dzongs or large houses; in the south the houses are primarily made of bamboo, while in the mountains they tend to be made from stone. Most of these local homes though are just made of clay and wood.

Traditional architecture continues to be built in Bhutan today as there are laws dictating the style of buildings that can be built. All new construction must contain arched windows, multi-colored wood, and sloping roofs; additionally, nails are not allowed.

This page was last updated: March, 2013