Bhutanese housing has a distinct character from that of other Himalayan countries. Relatively spacious compared with those of neighboring societies, houses took advantage of natural light and, because of the steep terrain, were usually built in clusters rather than in rows. Timber, stone, clay, and brick were typical construction materials in upland Ngalop areas. Family residences frequently had three stories, with room for livestock on the first or ground story, living quarters on the second story, additional living quarters and storage on the third story, and an open space between the third story and the roof for open-air storage. Large stones were used to weigh down wooden roofs against fierce Himalayan storms. Among Buddhism's contributions to Bhutan were its rich architectural embellishments. The walls of residences and public buildings, inside and outside, were subject to colorful decoration, as were furniture, cupboards, stairs, window frames, doors, and fences. Wooden shutters rather than scarce glass were used throughout the 1980s. Buddhist motifs and symbolic colors also were extensively used. Sharchop houses of stone and timber were sometimes built on hillsides. In the southern areas inhabited by Nepalese, Assamese, and Bengalis, housing was more likely to consist of bamboo and thatched roof houses and mud and thatch dwellings. The construction of housing often was a cooperative task of the community.
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