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East and West

Thimphu, Bhutan

Invited to see a new hotel opening soon as part of a school for hotel management, I'm driven to a site dominated by a huge stone building punctured by irregular windows and somewhat encumbered by huge wood protrusions. Austrian design, Austrian engineering and Austrian money made it happen.

The construction manager is on site, and happily gives us a tour of the building. The stone and wood are local, but absolutely everything else came from Austria and India: steel, insulation, door and window fittings, bathroom fixtures, solar and mechanical and electrical equipment...the works. The problems of procurement, detailing and construction suggest an attitude not at all interested in what the local economy has to offer, but the problems run even deeper. The local architect failed to assert himself against the will of the Austrian architect, the government procurement policies prevented wood chip making machinery from finding a home here to support the heating plant, some of the equipment requires maintenance expertise unavailable in Bhutan, and some of the double-glazed panels on the ground floor are misting as their seals were broken in transport from India.

Inside, entering some of the rooms confronts you with clear glass panels into the bathroom. I can't think of any culture, no matter how libertine, that might love that. The rooms do have nice big windows.

Upstairs, the huge cantilevered roof offers a reinterpretation of the traditionally open Bhutanese attic. I can imagine the architect searching for a modern expression of traditional Bhutan typologies, and I’m in exactly the same boat as I consider the project that invited me here in the first place, and there is no denying the drama of this incredible roof: my stingy Dutch Calvinism rebels at the expense while my secular devotion to visceral placemaking stands in awe: getting this project built took guts. Hopefully furnishings, the hot tubs and a full bar will make the attic more hospitable then it is now. I leave the project after a cup of tea determined in any case to find a local architect who will kick my butt if I do anything that makes no sense here even if it might in the US.

Afterwards we visit the Amankorra resort, and it is sensible and sensual and beautiful, without the ambitions of the Austrian project but also without the unfortunate problems.

permalink written by  roel krabbendam on June 8, 2015 from Thimphu, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan
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Love it--"kick your butt."

permalink written by  Marika on June 9, 2015

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Here's a synopsis of my trips to date (click on the trip names to the right to get all the postings in order):

Harmattan: Planned as a bicycle trip through the Sahara Desert, from Tunis, Tunisia to Cotonou, Benin, things didn't work out quite as expected.

Himalayas: No trip at all, just...

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