Denchi, Bhutan

The Pemagatshel Dzong shall act as an iconic symbol of Bhutanese culture and society, binding the district intrinsically within the Bhutanese nation. Functionally, the Dzong shall be the administrative centre at the Dzongkhag level supporting, facilitating and enabling development and sustenance at the Gewog and village level of development and administration. The structure shall accommodate sectoral offices such as Planning, Education, Livestock, Land Records, Education and more. There will be modest areas for the Monk’s Body to carry out rituals. The building should be easy to secure and to guard.

While the Pemagatshel Dzong will be the most prominent structure within the Denchi new town it will also be the centre of an entire district and this must be expressed in its “presence.” Sitting at the terminus of an imposing boulevard and perched upon a commanding pinnacle, the building must capture its potential of gathering the commanding views it will afford from the surrounding valleys and hills. The structure shall be the nerve centre of a larger region of Gewogs and is an integral link to the nearby districts of Mongar, Zhemgang, Sandrup Jongkhar and Tashigang.

The Pemagatshel Dzong must be aligned such that its entry portal, central court and tower sit strategically on the lineal axis of the main entry boulevard into the town. It must be the tallest structure within the central business area with a focal “tower-like” feature reflecting elements of the Utse in the Trashichhoe Dzong. There must be a traditional “entry portal” creating an emotional and symbolic separation between the mundane “outside” world and the sacred internal world of “civil society.” The various sector offices shall be accessed from the ground level of a central, well-defined courtyard where the most visited offices and amenities will be. More senior officers will sit on the first floor level accessed by the public from traditional “balcony passages”. Thus an “L” shaped plan creats a separation between the Dzong and the commercial activities of the town, while embracing the distant valley views, linking the Dzong to the region it will serve. Utse – like lakhang includes a public stair, allowing citizens a panoramic view of the town and the valley.

A massive masonry white painted wall shall support well-proportioned woodwork with strong over-hanging wooden balconies and roofs. Traditional iconography, motifs and colors will be used. Elements such as Kha, Boh, Rimchung, Chutchi, Pem, Dung, Kerye-gintee, Horzhing and Jzuzhing will be employed in the facades, along with other Bhutanese traditional iconography features.

The Pemagatshel Dzong will have its own sacred precinct, thus while being in the town centre, it will be away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial and social life of the town, giving it a aurora of its unique position in the order of daily life and society.The thickly wooded area behind the Dzong will be developed as a breakout area for the public to wait and to rest as a garden “spill-over” space.The image of the Pemagatshel Dzong must be such that it is carried in the memories of people who visit there, becoming an iconic symbol of the region, giving coherence and a sense of community to the people who dwell there about.

LocationDenchi, Bhutan

Built Up Area6810 Square Meters

Site Area6.5 Acres



Royal Government of Bhutan

Prime Contractor



Visualizations : Pankaj Bhagwatkar

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Rahul Sathe, Daraius Choksi, Deepak Kaw, Pankaj Bhagwatkar and Rohan Chavan