Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Druk White Lotus School - Ladakh

I came across this project through the PBS series e2 (Economies/Environmentally). The project is known as the The Druk White Lotus School located in northern India and was designed by ARUP. I absolutely feel in love with this project based on the fact that it beautifully merges the ideas of socially sustainable architecture with that of environmentally sustainable architecture.

It is my opinion, modern architecture lacks a basic understanding of cultural identity and social responsibility. We as architects are finally becoming aware of the environmental impacts of our buildings and we have spent a sizable amount of time and energy curtailing that issue; but we still haven't addressed the cultural and social strain that our buildings have on the people of the world. That is why the The Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh is so amazing, because it has found away to give back a sense of identity and culture to a society who is feels it necessary to modernize under it own cultural and social conditions.

Click here to watch trailer of the episode:

below is some further background on the project provided by e2:

Ladakh is one of the most remote places in India with one of the harshest climates on earth, and has long been isolated from the modern world. Now, caught in the political and cultural crossfire of neighboring countries and amidst religious strife, His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa saw his people and their future at risk. Under increasing pressure to modernize and engage with the 21st century, His Holiness, one of the four core leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, envisioned the Druk White Lotus School. The objective was to equip Ladakhi children to function in a modern world, while also embracing the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Guided by the vision of His Holiness, Jonathan Rose and his team of architects and engineers at ARUP London designed a school that utilizes modern technology and knowledge to preserve and respect the Ladakhi culture and environment.

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.

ARUP also used the natural environment to improve the buildings' functionality and longevity. Buildings were strategically positioned to maximize solar potential according to their specific function. Classrooms face the morning sun to naturally heat and light them during the day. Residential buildings absorb solar energy during the day and release the heat at night. These and other considerations allow the school to maintain comfortable temperatures without using money or energy.

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?

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