The National Ceremonial Plaza; Christopher Charles Benninger Architects

The National Ceremonial Plaza; Christopher Charles Benninger Architects

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The structure is crafted totally of indigenous materials, including Dolep granite stone slabs, blue pine wood, brass hardware and tin roof sheets from the Terrai. Given the nature of blue pine, the wood columns were wrapped in linen cloth and bonded with resin glue to the woodwork, prior to painting
National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune

A new democratic nation was born in 2007 when His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicated his throne, declaring Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk to be the new King and declaring Bhutan as constitutional democracy. The National Ceremonial Plaza is the iconic symbol of this historic transition. It brought national ceremonies and rituals from within the cloistered fortress-monastery, the Trashichhodzong, out of palace walls to the common people.

The National Ceremonial Plaza by Prof. Christopher Charles Benninger, Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA) is an addition to the recently constructed North Wall of the ancient fortress-monastery. Locally known as the Tsechu Plaza, this national public space is composed of tiered wood carved balconies; a large stepped plaza with a capacity to seat 25,000 observers/participants; green rooms and sanitary facilities for dancers and musicians; public sanitary facilities; pavilions for serving tea; and controlled entry points. A central dance and performance arena accommodates several hundred musicians and dancers.

For several centuries the main courtyard has been the venue of the annual Tsechu Festival (literally Tenth Day) which begins on the tenth day of the Tibetan Lunar month at harvest time. The Thimphu Tsechu is the largest and most spectacular valley festival in the Himalayas!

The architects worked side by side with artisans in creating the space, as traditional construction is based on artistic temper and classical measure, not drawings. The structure is crafted totally of indigenous materials, including Dolep granite stone slabs, blue pine wood, brass hardware and tin roof sheets from the Terrai. Given the nature of blue pine, the wood columns were wrapped in linen cloth and bonded with resin glue to the woodwork, prior to painting.

The final traditional columns are capped with flying capitals, carved beams, intricate roof purlins, wood corbels and carved motifs and then painted with local mineral colours.

The National Ceremonial Plaza is the focal public domain of the Bhutanese Kingdom, a national icon for its citizens and a functional facility to accommodate religious and secular events of national importance.

The National Ceremonial Plaza is a new, modern building typology for the Himalayas keeping the culture “alive” and rigorous as it adapts to new and democratic functions.

  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • The structure is crafted totally of indigenous materials, including Dolep granite stone slabs, blue pine wood, brass hardware and tin roof sheets from the Terrai. Given the nature of blue pine, the wood columns were wrapped in linen cloth and bonded with resin glue to the woodwork, prior to painting <br> National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    The structure is crafted totally of indigenous materials, including Dolep granite stone slabs, blue pine wood, brass hardware and tin roof sheets from the Terrai. Given the nature of blue pine, the wood columns were wrapped in linen cloth and bonded with resin glue to the woodwork, prior to painting
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune
  • National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune <photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu
    National Ceremonial Plaza, Thimphu, Bhutan CCBA Pune

The work illustrates that modern architecture can be created by traditional craftsmen, out of local materials, and within the architectural language of a culture, yet address modern and new functions in a new political era.

Author: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu

Photographs: Akkisetti Ramprasad Naidu