ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo

King of Bhutan unveils masterplan for Mindfulness City, designed by BIG, Arup and Cistri

by Megan Whitby | 20 Dec 2023
King Wangchuck of Bhutan has unveiled plans for a moonshot urban project in Southern Bhutan
The masterplan draws on Bhutan's culture and spiritual heritage, as well as the country's Gross National Happiness* index
The Gelephu Special Administration Region will be located on the India-Bhutan border and have legal independence and executive autonomy
The project has been designed by architecture firms Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Arup and Singaporean planning city consultancy Cistri
Credit: Ehrhorn Hummerston
The Mindfulness City is a place where nature is enhanced, agriculture is integrated and tradition is alive and breathing, not only preserved but also evolved
– Bjarke Ingels

The King of Bhutan has announced plans for a new economic hub immersed in nature and designed by architecture firms Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Arup, and Cistri.

Referred to as the Mindfulness City, the masterplan for the future Gelephu Special Administration Region (SAR) is informed by Bhutanese culture and its strong spiritual heritage, as well as the country's Gross National Happiness (GNH)* index.

The goal is for the SAR to lay the foundation for the country’s future growth and create economic opportunities for its citizens through investments in green technology, education and infrastructure.

While presenting the vision during the country's 116th National Day address, King Wangchuck described the future city as an "economic corridor connecting South Asia with Southeast Asia via India’s northeastern States".

Realised by BIG’s Landscape and Urban Design Team, the masterplan includes a Vajrayana spiritual center, an international airport, railway connections, a hydroelectric dam, public spaces and a language for local building typologies, based on the nine domains of GNH*.

“The Gelephu masterplan gives form to His Majesty’s vision to create a city that becomes a cradle for growth and innovation while remaining founded on Bhutanese nature and culture,” said Bjarke Ingels, BIG’s founder and creative director.

Nature first

Nestled between mountains, forests and rivers, Bhutan has been labelled as one of the last biodiversity hotspots in the world, with 70 per cent of the country covered in forest.

Plans for the Mindfulness City aim to amplify the country’s biodiversity by emerging as a tapestry of interconnected ecosystems and neighbourhoods shaped by the flow of the 35 local rivers and streams.

The resulting ribbonlike neighbourhoods will resemble paddy fields, forming urban terraces that cascade down from the hills to the valley.

The city will increase in density from the rural and recreational highlands to the urban and dense lowlands.

“We imagine the Mindfulness City as a place that could be nowhere else,” Ingles added, “where nature is enhanced, agriculture is integrated and tradition is alive and breathing, not only preserved but also evolved.

“Shaped by waterways, Gelephu becomes a land of bridges, connecting nature and people, past and future, local and global.”

Ingles says the natural elements and the existing infrastructure, agriculture and utilities of Gelephu naturally create 11 distinct neighbourhoods across the area.

Each has been designed based on the principles of the Mandala: defined by a series of repeating typologies organised symmetrically around a central public space, a gradual transition in density is created, from small buildings dispersed in the landscape in the north to larger footprints within an urban environment in the south.

To protect existing and future development against flooding in the monsoon season, paddy fields will be established along the site’s rivers and tributaries, running from north to south. These will further function as biodiversity corridors for local flora and fauna, leaving the migratory routes of elephants and other wildlife undisturbed.

Giulia Frittoli, partner in charge, BIG Landscape, added: “Inspired by the Bhutanese culture of respect and compassion for others and nature, the Mindfulness City is designed to enhance ecological systems, through an urban development that connects flora and fauna, as well as people and ideas.

“It becomes a testament of humanity's inseparable bond with nature and a global example of how to build a sustainable human presence on Earth.”

Bridging the gapThe neighbourhoods within the city, divided by rivers, will be tied together by three main mobility connections.

Occasionally, these will double as transportation infrastructure combined with civic and cultural facilities, creating a series of ‘inhabitable bridges’ which are tailored to the nine NGH* domains.

Each of the bridges will house key destinations within the city: the new airport, a spiritual center which will allow glimpses into monks’ daily practices; a healthcare center as a meeting between Eastern and Western medicine; a university; a hydroponic and aquaponic greenhouse; a cultural center to immerse and educate visitors about Bhutanese culture; and a market adorned with Bhutanese textiles.

The final bridge, a hydroelectric dam, will be constructed on the city’s western border with a step-well retaining wall that offers viewpoints, staircases for meditative walks, and a temple.

Intimate streets, paved with permeable pavers provide resilience by allowing stormwater to seep into the ground rather than the sewage system.

Local materials – wood, stone, and bamboo – will be used in the new buildings, inspired by vernacular motifs such as rabsel, cornices, ornaments, and roofscapes.

*Bhutan’s GNH – The Buddhist country uses the GNH – focusing on the wellness of its people – as its main measure of development in addition to GDP. The GNH is based on nine areas; Psychological Wellbeing, Health, Education, Living Standards, Time-Use, Ecological Diversity and Resilience, Good Governance, Cultural Diversity and Resilience, and Community Vitality

Mindfulness City  Bjarke Ingels Group  Bhutan  BIG  Arup  Cistri 
Related stories
27 Apr 2023

Bjarke Ingels among finalists chosen in design competition for National Museum of the United States Navy

06 Apr 2023

Bjarke Ingels creates meandering eco distillery attraction for Blue Run Kentucky

18 Jul 2022

All change at Six Senses New York

20 Jun 2022

BIG and HOK's timber concept wins Zurich Airport competition

18 May 2022

BIG's designs Prague concert hall to be vibrant centre of life

The King of Bhutan has announced plans for a new economic hub immersed in nature and designed by architecture firms Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Arup, and Cistri. Referred to as the Mindfulness City, the masterplan for the future Gelephu Special Administration Region (SAR) is informed by Bhutanese culture and its strong spiritual heritage, as well as the country's Gross National Happiness (GNH)* index. The goal is for the SAR to
CLD,HAF,SAB,CPW,PRO,ARC,DES,DEV,PHR,ECO
The Mindfulness City will have legal independence and executive autonomy / Brick Visual, Atchain, BIG
More news
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7773     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7773     
 
 
 
company profile
Company profile: Polin Waterparks
Design, engineering, manufacturing, installation of waterslides, waterparks and waterplay attractions. Polin has perfected hundreds of exclusive and successful projects all around the world: outdoor parks, indoor parks and hotel/resort packages, regardless of the project’s size.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
Bing Thom’s Xiqu Centre is purpose-built for Chinese opera performances
"We’re going into unknown territory. That’s where real innovation can occur"

It’s an ambitious experiment for Hong Kong, but will the West Kowloon Cultural District turn out to be a white elephant or a new model for development in the city?

The adaptive façade can be used to promote forthcoming events
Mike Trice
"It’s unique the way we’ve delivered it as an architectural piece"

Populous' Bristol Arena winning entry

Six Senses is opening the Zil Pasyon resort on the private island of Félicité, Seychelles, later this year
Craig Cogut founded Pegasus in 1996 and serves as chair and president
"Urban retreats are hard to find. There’s a segment of guests who’d welcome Six Senses hotels in urban locations"

Three years after Pegasus Capital bought Six Senses, how close is the private equity firm to realising its goals for its first spa and hospitality investment? Pegasus’ founder Craig Cogut tells us what’s been achieved and what comes next

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
CLAD people: Vincent Callebaut
"It’s about tracing the evolution of thermal practices"

Eco architect Vincent Callebaut has won a competition to redesign ancient thermal baths in the Savoyard town of Aix-les-Bains, France

The Pompidou Centre opened on 31 January 1977
Mike Davies with the original competition model of the Pompidou Centre from the 1970s
"The building concept was radical, the construction was radical and the design detail was unlike anything else seen in France"

As the Pompidou Centre turns 40, one of its designers looks back on a radical age

features
The Vo Trong Nghia-designed Roc Von restaurant opened in rural Vietnam earlier this year
"Without green design we’re finished"

Pushing green design practices and caring for the natural world

Steve and Marie Nygren
Steve and Marie Nygren
"The vision was to create a community that feels as though it’s always been there"

Eco community Serenbe was launched in the heart of the Giorgia countryside to provide an alternative to the traditional American suburb. As work starts on a new wellness hamlet, we speak to the founders

cladkit product news
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
Jaffe Holden helps bring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures alive
Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics for the Academy Museum
Magali Robathan
Acoustical consulting firm Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics and audio/video design services for the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion ...
cladkit product news
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
cladkit product news
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates
x
Email this to a friend or colleague
I am happy for Leisure Media to contact me occasionally by email and understand that I can opt out at any time.
King of Bhutan unveils ‘Mindfulness City’ masterplan for Southern Bhutan
The King of Bhutan has announced plans to create a 1,000sq km economic hub inspired by the Bhutanese culture of respect and compassion for others and nature in Gelephu, Bhutan.
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo