All You Need to Know About Gelephu Mindfulness City
The kingdom of Bhutan is planning to develop a "mindfulness city" covering about 2.5% of its land, which is larger than the size of Singapore.
On December 17th 2023, during the 166th National Day address, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck announced that Gelephu city is set to be an economic hub for Bhutan.
Gelephu Mindfulness City designed by BIG's Landscape and Urban Design Team, will span over 1000 km2 and integrate Bhutanese culture, Gross National Happiness index principles, and spiritual heritage. Located near the India-Bhutan border in Southern Bhutan, the Gelephu Special Administration Region aims to utilize its strategic location to stimulate economic growth and provide opportunities for locals. The plan includes green technology, education, and infrastructure initiatives such as an international airport, railways, a hydroelectric dam, and public spaces. It also incorporates local building styles based on the nine domains of GNH, emphasizing well-being, health, education, and cultural diversity.
Intergrating Natural Ecosystems and Communities
Surrounded by mountains, forests, and rivers, Bhutan boasts rich biodiversity, with 70% of its land covered in forest. The Mindfulness City seeks to enhance this natural wealth by creating interconnected ecosystems and lively neighborhoods. Inspired by the flow of 35 rivers and streams, the city's design features ribbonlike neighborhoods resembling paddy fields, cascading terraces from hills to valleys. The city's density gradually increases from rural to urban areas, facilitating a smooth transition between different living environments.
Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director of BIG, envisions Gelephu as a city rooted in Bhutanese nature and culture, embodying growth and innovation. Shaped by waterways, Gelephu connects nature and people, past and future, local and global, with inhabitable bridges serving as cultural landmarks and transportation infrastructure.
"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. We imagine the Mindfulness City as a place that could be nowhere else. Where nature is enhanced, agriculture is integrated, and tradition is living 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. Like the traditional Dzongs, these inhabitable bridges turn into cultural landmarks, doubling as transportation infrastructure combined with civic facilities. Among these, the Sankosh Temple-Dam embeds the city’s fundamental values into a cascading landscape of steps and landings, that like a 21st century Tigers Nest will be a manmade monument to the divine possibility of a sustainable human presence on earth. Turning engineering into art and turning the forces of nature into power." - Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group