The master plan for the Druk White Lotus School was inspired by the Buddhist tradition in Ladakh. By laying out the school buildings in the traditional form of a mandala - a series of symmetrical geometric shapes with significant spiritual resonance - the design itself honors the culture of the community. The great innovation of the school is that it does not simply transplant Western notions of sustainable building into this remote region of India. ARUP considered the extreme climate of Ladakh and sought to understand local methods of construction, local architecture, and environmental physics in order to create an efficient design that would best address the needs of the school. The designers used construction methods based on the surrounding monasteries, which have survived up to a thousand years in the region's hostile conditions. They also made full use of local materials, using timber frames to reinforce the walls and roofs of the buildings. Tree plantations flourish in the valleys of Ladakh and trees grow very quickly, making them a sustainable and locally-sourced material.
The Druk White Lotus School demonstrates that efficient design doesn't necessarily have to be something Western or Western-looking. With careful design and consideration, local cultures can sustain their way of life while also utilizing technologically advanced methods. Thanks to the vision of His Holiness and the ARUP team, the world has an example to build off of. Where will this model be copied next?
2. How do you think building design may or may not honor the culture of a community?
3. What decisions and concerns do Western designers need to take into consideration when constructing a building in other parts of the world?
Link to resources to conduct research on these topics.
2. What particular decisions did the designers make in their choices of materials and energy sources to create a sustainable building in this remote location? How did they use the natural environment?
3. Why is it important to preserve culture? How is culture passed on? What aspects of culture, if lost, would be very hard to recover? How did the designers preserve the culture of Ladakh?
4. How can technology and modernization affect culture negatively? Positively? Use specific examples.
NATIONAL STANDARDS FROM MCREL STANDARD
Standard 16.3: Understands the role of research and development in the production of new or improved products, processes, and materials.
Standard 17.6: Understands tradeoffs among characteristics such as safety, function, cost, ease of operation, quality of post-purchase support, and environmental impact when selecting systems for specific purposes.
Standard 4.6: Knows that a design involves different design factors (e.g., ergonomics, maintenance and repair, environmental concerns) and design principles (e.g., flexibility, proportion, function).
Standard 6.8: Knows different requirements for structural design (e.g., strength, maintenance, appearance) and that these structures require maintenance.