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Inspiring Design

Druk White Lotus SchoolArup Associates has won the award for "Inspiring Design" for the Druk White Lotus School they have built in Ladakh Northern India. The award is granted by The British Council for School Environments.

The project was instigated by HH The Dalai Lama as a model school in The Himalayas. It is a non-denominational school working from a wholly sustainable campus that has succeeded in making the best of new environmental technology and local skills.

Arus Associates' focus is an approach to design that sustains all components of humanity: in essence, development that concerns itself with 'whole life' sustainability.

They are not simply interested in reducing energy consumption. They believe the real issue is how human culture - tradition, religion, the intangible components of humanity - can be sustained in the face of modernity. They believe that it is essential for architects and engineers to work in ways that prioritize individuals, sustaining a sense of local identity both in terms of culture and the environment, through a reprioritization of the importance of human experience, including the senses and memory. The aim is a process of ‘whole life sustainability’ that places people first, and that enhances the existing value systems found within in different locations, rather than creating modernist models that expect people, cities and places around the world to behave in identical ways.

In contrast to conventional ways of working, the Druk White Lotus project is founded in traditional values and cultures and yet at the same time seeks to advance educational needs in the context of the 21st century. The unusual collaborative approach defined by Arus Associates' strategy of unified design allows each of the advocates to find their voice, and allows seamless integration of the parts into the whole, without fear of inappropriate influence by an externally imposed architectural vision. The project is a model of sustainability: not only in the obvious sense, but more importantly, in the sense that traditional cultural values, spirituality and materials are maintained.

The development naturally uses every available strategy to ensure a reduction of resource consumption. Yet the notion of ‘whole-life sustainability’, reaches far beyond issues of energy. Through the strategy of unified design, Arup Associates have demonstrated sensitivity to unique cultural and spiritual values, and have fostered them within a timeless design approach that respects and sustains their value indefinitely.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was moved by the outcome. “…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,” he commented. “I have always believed in giving equal importance to both modern, scientific knowledge and traditional Buddhist Culture".

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