Thimphu, Bhutan

The complex is focused on the council chamber, which “floats” in a Lotus Pool. The central Karuna Tshogkhang is supported on four concrete pillars leaving four large openings on the four cardinal sides. These vertical pillars and the openings are all covered with quartzite marble allowing light to emerge through its opaque sheets. In the daytime sunlight glows through these translucent walls and at nighttime the interior light emanates out of the structure, making it a luminous object, radiating light! The four corner concrete supports, rising vertically, give the structure a traditional shape. At the corners these walls are separated by an articulated slit, from which light will shine at night and from behind embedded louvers, utilities will run to the top. By using these slits, each of the four walls, leaning back, will “read” as an independent plane. Thus, the white marble cladded over these structures continues across the four facades of the council chamber, where this luminous marble is supported on a daring structural steel frame. This frame can not be seen from outside, but is articulated on the inside, allowing light to filter through its lattice into the great hall. The working chamber is designed “in the round,” facing the Chairperson and dais where several members can lead sessions. There is VVIP seating for special invitees on one side and on the other side for invited officials and experts to enlighten the council on technical information required during their deliberations. The chamber, which appears to float on the Lotus Pool, is accessible via covered walkways. In the surrounding council secretariat all of the members’ suites, support staff, achieve, meeting rooms, reading room, dining, utilities and sanitary facilities are housed.

All of the facilities used by the members are at the Lotus Pool level, which shares the same floor level with the National Assembly. There is no physical link between this lower level and the upper visitor’s level. At this upper, Reflecting Pool level, for visitors there is only a large garden terrace with low planting, pavilions and seating, and a large reflecting pool, so that the chamber tower is mirrored in its waters when viewed from the Dechen Lam. The visitors include the general public, national and international tourists, the press and school educational groups. Many will come with passes to enter and witness council sessions. Others will just meander about the raised terrace, enjoying the Reflecting Pool, the view across to the Trashi Chhoe Dzong and the ambience of an iconic monument. The milieu is one of a garden structured by pools of placid water, centered on a white marble tower.

The public may meander about this area (on the roof of the secretariat) without disturbing any function of the council facilities below. There is a clear separation between the two. For those with passes, who wish to experience the sessions of the National Council, there is an entrance pavilion, with a security check and a foyer where their belongings can be stowed. From here there is a covered bridge over the Lotus Pool (at the lower level) for the public to reach the visitor’s viewing gallery. This podium terrace is at approximately the same level as the upper river side lawns at the entrance to the Trashi Chhoe Dzong. Thus, a magnificent view of the Dzong is afforded, integrating this complex with the entire Dzong Precinct. The central Karuna Tshogkhang chamber of the National Council reflects in its shape the forms of Bhutanese lakhangs, monasteries, and dzongs. It is carefully designed to be lower than the Utse in the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, yet symbolically acts as an utse in legislative complex, while the roof of the National Assembly is analogous to a dzong.  There is a stair in one of the corners of the chamber tower, allowing guests to ascend to the top of the structure affording them a panoramic view of the Thimphu Valley.

All of these areas are backed up by security, parking and utilities situated under the Reflecting Pool. These are accessed from side lanes. Security will be enhanced by movement detectors, electronic slide passes locating all occupants on a screen within the monitor’s cabin, and cameras. Two view points can see two corridors each, easing the observation of movement and unusual activity.  Totally separated from the members’ area, under the Reflecting Pool and visitor’s area, is a large utilities and parking structure that can accommodate about one hundred vehicles. This may also be used by the National Assembly, allowing their present parking lot to be converted into a terraced garden.

All member’s personal offices, conference rooms and senior official’s rooms face into the Lotus Pool through tinted glass. The waiting rooms of members face through glass walls also, across a generous corridor, into traditional Bhutanese gardens, accented with chortens, prayer wheels and a small lakhang. Indigenous planting is used.  Thus, the National Council Complex is composed as a carefully articulated ensemble of functional spaces integrated through a transcendental language. The campus becomes a supporting component of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong and is not a dominating element. It is subservient to the Utse, an integral part of the National Assembly. It can be seen from some of the upper terraces of the National Secretariat. The National Council Complex is not a separate entity, but rather an integral part of the Dzong’s over-all cosmography.

LocationThimphu, Bhutan

Built Up Area10,000 Square Meters

Site Area5 acres



Royal Government of Bhutan

Prime Contractor



Visualizations : Jagdeesh Taluri

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Rahul Sathe, Daraius Choksi, Shivaji Karekar, Deepak Kaw and Jagdeesh Taluri