Restoration of private traditional house in Kabesa under Kawang Gewog, Thimphu Dzongkhag

Restoration of private traditional house in Kabesa under Kawang Gewog, Thimphu Dzongkhag

Brief description of the project

Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS) under the Department of Culture in collaboration with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), Tokyo has successfully completed the joint survey for studying traditional Bhutanese buildings in the western part of Bhutan. The study has been a success and as a result of the survey we were able to identify three houses, each from Kabesa, Changjokha and Talung Toed in Thimphu, Punakha and Haa Dzongkhag respectively to be of earliest typology of rammed earth structure without structural interventions. One of the most significant outcomes of the research was that private house owners came forward and showed interest to rehabilitate their house instead of dismantling it. 

The traditional house in Kabesa is recognized as the oldest typology of rammed earth house as indicated in the figure below:

Chronology of architectural style of rammed earth houses

The house belongs the earliest of the chronological order of houses. It is believed to be built at the end of the 17th century due to the similarity of the processing of wood and style of window frames and is considered to be one of the oldest private houses in Bhutan, which conveys its original form today. Besides, it looks very similar to a private farmhouse depicted in Samuel Davis’ sketch of 1783 and is likely to represent a typical style of traditional farmhouses in the region. 

In the village near Tassisudon” by Samuel Davis, 1783 (left) and Kabesa house in 2014 (right)

The Department of Culture and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has completed the salvaging of the timber members. However, due to absence of roof, the rammed earth wall were at huge risk from deterioration and therefore, the Department of culture coordinated the installation of temporary roofing on the structure. 

Kabesa house in 2018 (left) and with temporary roof in August 2020 (right)