SUSTAINING IDENTITY

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

At an altitude of 3,500 metres and only accessible for six months of the year, the Leh Valley in Ladakh is about as remote as it gets. We’ve been designing and working with a trust charity since 1997 to create a place of cultural learning; a school for local children and each year we send young engineers to help and learn. This fundamentally sustainable centre has become a focal point of culture and communication for the whole region.

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh

Ladakh photograph by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh Location Map

Location of Druk White Lotus School © Arup Associates 

Druk White Lotus School Logo

Druk White Lotus School logo 

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

THE SCHOOL’S BACKGROUND

The Druk White Lotus School is an initiative of the Drukpa Trust, a UK registered charity under the patronage of the Dalai Lama. It opened in 2001 and now has over 650 pupils.

The school’s aim is to give children from this remote part of India a high-quality, modern education, whilst engaging with local cultures or traditions.

This was our brief- to create a structure that would celebrate and enhance local values, while at the same time making the most of cutting-edge technology and construction methods from the West.

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Photograph of opening ceremony by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh

Photograph © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh

Photograph by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh

Photograph by Roland Reinardy © Arup Associates 

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

MODERN SCHOOL, ANCIENT TRADITIONS

Designed to be built in stages, our plan for the school included teaching courtyards, dining hall and kitchen, computer and science labs, art studios, a medical clinic and accommodation for staff and pupils.

It’s all designed around the circular ‘mandala’ form – an ancient Indian symbol of wholeness and the ultimate model for organisation.

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh Masterplan

Model of masterplan © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Ladakh Circular 'Mandala' Form

Circular 'Mandala' form 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School During Construction

Construction photograph of the Pema Karpo Library by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Model of Pema Karpo Library

Model of Pema Karpo Library © Arup Associates 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea of having a modern school which lays equal emphasis on the importance of preserving the valuable aspects of a traditional culture is very encouraging.
I have always believed in giving equal importance to both modern, scientific knowledge and traditional Buddhist culture.

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN IN A HARSH ENVIRONMENT

In a harsh, high altitude, desert environment where water is scarce, sustainability had to play a major part in our plans for the school from the very start.

We created cutting-edge systems that pump water from melted snow to the site, both for drinking water and for irrigation. The school’s toilets don’t require water at all, and have state of the art passive technology to eliminate odours and turn waste into compost.

Ladakh has hot summers and very cold winters, so we installed passive solar heating. Even in winter, energy from sunlight is stored and used to heat the school and accommodation.

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Six Ornamets of Naropa

Six ornamets of naropa photograph by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Photo-Voltaic Panels

Photograph of photovoltaic panels by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Compost Toilets Diagram

Compost toilets © Arup Associates 

Druk White Lotus School Available Drinking Water

Avaliable drinking water © Graham Brandon 

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN IN A HARSH ENVIRONMENT

And because the region is at risk of earthquakes and mud slides, we built the school using a timber frame structure with timber robust connections and steel cross-bracing to make sure everyone stays safe. Unsurprisingly, it’s already had to demonstrate its capabilities on more than one occasion!

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School After Mud Slide in 2010

Aftermath of mud slide in 2010 © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School After Mud Slide in 2010

Aftermath of mud slide in 2010 © Arup Associates 

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Arup Associates;

Structure construction detail © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates;

Photograph of Pema Karpo Library © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates;

Timber construction © Christian Richters 

 

 

Even in winter,
energy from the sun
is converted to heating for
the school and accommodation

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

WHOLE LIFE SUSTAINABILITY

Beyond the obvious sustainable features, the school’s design and construction focus on sustaining the cultures, traditions and experiences of the region.

All the building materials for the school are sourced locally, providing important trade for the rural communities. And we’ve relied heavily on local expertise, tradesmen and building techniques throughout the project, learning lots to take back to the UK..

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School During Construction

Construction photograph © Christian Richters 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School During Construction

Construction photograph © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School During Construction

Construction photograph © Arup Associates 

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Druk White Lotus School Photo-Voltaic Panel Testing

Photograph by Caroline Sohie © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Supplied from Local Resourses

Local resources © Christian Richters 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Supplied from Local Resourses

Local material resources used for construction © Christian Richters 

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

ONGOING

For Arup Associates, the project has given us the chance to make a difference to a community far-removed from our own lives. We’ve completed ten of the twelve stages, and will travel back each summer until the school is complete.

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Completed Pema Karpo Library

Photograph of completed Pema Karpo Library © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Completed Pema Karpo Library

Photograph of completed Pema Karpo Library © Arup Associates 

Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony photograph by Roland Reinardy © Arup Associates 

Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony photograph by Roland Reinardy © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony © Arup Associates 

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Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony © Arup Associates 

Arup Associates; Druk White Lotus School Bus

Druk White Lotus School Bus © Graham Brandon 

DRUK WHITE LOTUS SCHOOL

Client: The Drukpa Trust
Architecture: Arup Associates
Engineering: Arup Associates and Arup
Completion Date: Final phase due 2020

Awards

2013  Winner of the prestigious International Architecture in Stone Award, XIII edition
2009 BCSE Industry Awards, Winner of the Inspiring Design Award, International category
2009 Design for Asia Award, Grand Award
2009 World Architecture News, Shortlisted, Education Category
2005 Sinclair Knight Merz Award for Achievement in development
2003 BCCB Award for International Expertise
2002 World Architecture Awards: Best Green Building; Best Education Building; Best Asian Building

Related links

More about the local stone used
AD Sustaining Identity: Human Experience & Place
Philip Cornwall, 1946-2014

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