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U.S funds for the documentation of Wangdichhoeling palace.

Date : Wed Oct 24 11:30:07 EDT 2012

The documentation of the 19th century Wangduechhoeling Palace in Bumthang, the first step in its conservation, is expected to begin soon, with the U.S. ambassador's fund for cultural preservation (AFCP) grant award.

U.S. ambassador to India, Nancy J Powell, who is in the country on a week long visit from October 21-26, announced yesterday the grant amount of USD 97,786 to the Bhutan Foundation (BF), an NGO which will implement the project.

Ambassador Powell said the AFCP project was a mark of the deep respect of the U.S. government and its people for Bhutan's rich cultural heritage. She said the United States is committed to helping preserve Bhutan's cultural heritage.

The AFCP provides funding to organisations to document, preserve, and restore culturally significant sites and traditions in their home countries. Since 2001, the AFCP has supported contributions of more than USD 36M towards cultural heritage preservation needs around the globe.

The Wangduechhoeling palace, currently on the watch-list of the World Monument Fund for endangered heritage sites, is regarded as an architectural masterpiece, and exquisite representation of 19th century Bhutanese architecture. 'This palace reflects the architectural grandeur of Bhutan and is a historical symbol of our country,' the director general of culture department, Dorji Tshering, said.

In a news release from the Bhutan Foundation last year, it stated the three-year project would be carried out in two phases, estimated to cost more than USD 5.3M.

The first phase of the project includes survey, documentation, condition assessment, meeting with stakeholders, preparation of restoration and project proposals, approvals from authorities and establishment of project team, a BF official said.

After the conclusion of documentation of the AFCP project, the BF plans the adaptive reuse of the Wangduechholing palace in the second phase, which includes its conservation, and the establishment of a museum within the palace.

'Through this historical structure, the fusion of tradition and modernity in Bhutan will be seen and experienced both by the Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese alike,' Dorji Tshering said.

The BF will be working with the division of conservation of heritage sites of the home ministry on this project.

The BF's project document stated that the initiative to restore the Wangduechhoeling palace, which is the birthplace of Bhutan?s monarchy, was taken to preserve the aura and the grandeur of the palace that has remained neglected for more than 50 years. The report stated that the stunning carvings and paintings on the façade of the palace, and the timber frames of the windows and walls have deteriorated, and are in danger of being damaged beyond repair.

The Wangduechhoeling palace was constructed in 1857, as a private mansion by Jigme Namgyel, who unified the feudal regions of Bhutan, and laid the grounds for the election of his son Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. The location of the palace in the Jakar valley is said to be on the very grounds of one of his most famous battle camps. Born in this mansion, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck established the first historic offices and courts, when he became the first King in 1907.

Built mainly as a residential mansion, the palace is also unique, compared to similar monuments in Bhutan that were usually designed as fortresses. The layout and design of the rooms are fascinating reflections of the lives of the first monarchs.

The central temple in the courtyard, built by the first King, is a treasure trove of ancient murals, texts, sculptures, and textiles, and an exceptional museum in its own right.


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