Attic antics

I went on a fieldtrip today. I went to Thimphu town. Almost every building has an attic. And almost every attic violates Thimphu’s building regulations.

Because they were illegal, earlier attics are discrete. Their builders went to great lengths to hide their attics, to make them look uninhabited.

But because the first attics were not questioned, latter attics have become increasingly bold. Some are quite beautiful. All are displayed fearlessly. And some attics sport attics – doubled storied attics.

Thimphu’s building regulations continue to forbid building attics for habitation. And Thimphu’s builders continue to build more attics for habitation. According to TCC, 160 buildings have “habited attics”. I think this is an understatement. Go at night and you’ll see almost every attic alight – a sure sign of human habitation.

The problem is obvious: Thimphu’s attics are dangerous. They have poor lighting, ventilation and inadequate space. And they may not be structurally safe.

The solution is clear: legalize attics. In fact, require them. They can be quite beautiful – our traditional attics are. And well constructed attics would go a long way to address Thimphu’s growing housing shortage.

We’re building our nation. Let’s build it right. And build it well.

Hidden attic

Fortified attic

Discrete attic

Attic getting bolder

VAST attic

Attic on attic?

Attic on attic!

Beautiful attics

Double storied attic

Brand new attic

New beautiful attic

Attic on attic on attic?

Spot the house without an attic!


Facebook Comments:


  1. Creativity in architecture in Bhutan is severely restrained by all these rules and regulations which are only implemented in a very stratified manner. Sure, we can conform to some building regulations (for safety) and architectural conformities that truly represent Bhutanese uniqueness or identity, but after that leave it to the person who wants his or her home to look a certain way. We might see some brilliant Bhutanese designs. Anyway isn’t culture and tradition an evolving dynamic phenomenon?

    For a crowded place like Thimphu, creative and efficient use of space is important. People in City Corporation and Urban Planning need to get out of the box and should help us plan better liveable cities, towns and communities instead of just being another layer of bureaucracy.

  2. i think you should list the number of issues …as an article….
    beleive me …. there’s atleast 100 issues i can think of…..
    well forget, dealing with one thing at a time…lets list it down and then deal with it one thing at a time

  3. Bhutan Excursion says

    My Office is Located on Attic of Kuenzang Complex, it right in the middle of the town, but peace to work, as its silent.

    I think City Corporation should allow building attics.

  4. Opinionated Bhutanese says

    Building attic is a trivial matter. What we need to ask is why are there so many people willing to rent an attic, which is small conjested and anything, but homely? The obvious answer is the housing shortage in Thimphu. To talk about development, we have not been able build enough for 50,000 people in our capital city. So much for development.

  5. Hi Tshering,
    I am simply amazed with your keen observation on the practical everyday life in bhutan. I am truly bemused with the pictures you posted and the captions you pinned.I applaud you for you great observation.
    You have finally addressed a topic that I had been greatly debating on for so long.
    Like Salamani mentioned above, I feel that our archetectural rules are restricted and limited to some very old ideas and there is no room whatsoever for the growth of new ideas,innovations,technologies and the times.I greatly appreciate the traditional archetecture of Bhutan and I respect it from my heart.But it doesn’t mean that I have to live in one of them by force.The law make the houses in Bhutan very monotonous and tiringly boring.Go to the 20 districts in Bhutan and you will find the same house everywhere. If the sole purpose of enforcing it was to preserve the traditional archetecture, there are other ways and means. We can classify the old structures according to the period they were built and preserve them accordingly.
    You will soon notice that althought Thimphu is geographically located atleast 2700m above sea level and that it can be bitterly cold in winter, non of the buildings in Thimphu are made weather proof or the doors and windows come with weather strips.No built in hot water facility or heating systems,and no escape route in case of fire or emergencies except for the lone stairway are available. I haven’t seen a single private building equipped with fire extinguishers or fire hydrants.
    This clearly states that the government is weighing unnesessary emphasis on unimportant issues and putting at stake human lives and safety. But consider this, instead of wasting our time and resources on the costly and labor intensive physical decorations, we can make it more comfortable to live in the inside. what do you say?

    Thank you.

  6. Bhutanese Blogger says

    Three things on our attics-

    1. Culture evolves with time and available technologies, and so should our buildings and architecture.

    2. Creativity cannot be restrained. All the different attics prove the point.

    3. Focus on the important as noted by the last reader. Better structural designs, fire protection and more liveable spaces.

    4. Monotony is an eyesore. All the towns prove it.

    5. If you cannot beat them, join them. Now that there are already many attic-ed buildings, the Government should regularise them. Provide performance and functional standards to be fulfilled.


  7. Bhutanese Blogger says

    Er.. in fact, it was five..

  8. Ha Ha..found it very amusing – with all the pictures and their fitting captions! On a serious note, yes, this is an issue that really needs some deliberation and a clear-cut resoluton!

  9. Sir,
    it is good about the issue regarding Attics …….. but What about the underground Floors….. does it has a arhictectural rule?

  10. its crazy that we have all this nice rules but no one to amend or implement it. I think it’s too late do anything about it since 9 out of 10 houses has illegal attic. I guess the government should just let it be and concentrate more on the safety of design.

  11. Necessity is the mother of all they say. If there were no attics Engineers like me and many others would have lived hungry in 2004. (Pay Nu. 7000, house rent that attic saved me).
    I don’t blame the building owners….and i don’t blame the bureaucrats but let’s look for a solution together.

  12. Dear Mr. Opposition Leader,

    I know you only by reputation and reading your blog brings out your interesting, personable and intelligent personality, which I see isn’t limited to being a very savy political animal. For young voters like myself, you’re the kind of person we’d like to see in politics. Congratulations and good luck with your work.

  13. Yo Massive, grow some b@lls and do your job instead of blogging about this $hit… useless baldie!!

    And dont let that scarf get to your head cause YOU AINT NO LYNPO!!

  14. Wispering Eyes says

    hey anonymous,
    have sum respect for somebody’s opinion. and how dare u call the OL “no lyonpo”. he is a lyonpo by people’s chioce and i guess u should respect it.
    and Mr. OL, u are doing a great job. dont let people’s comments bother you. you know Bhutanese people have no sense of self respect. all they can do is mock other people’s achievements and hard work.
    instead of appreciating you for bringing out these issues, all they do is pass nasty comments.
    you ask them to write a 100 word article on any issue and they’ll keep staring at their blank screen for hours.
    you keep going!

  15. you are a great opposition Leader and doing great… best of luck … you are definitely winning a lot of support among civil servent…

  16. In addition to honorable OL and others, I would like to share my views…

    If skyscrapers in Japan can withstand the strongest of seismic waves, Bhutan is definitely a safe heaven for vertical constructions at least up to ten floors. This would forgo all problems associated with housing shortages, land requirement and price, cheaper construction and rental, environment friendly, green Thimphu and more….

  17. anonymous (4:01) show some respect. Do you even know what oposition leader means in a democracy. If you have a mind to think and reason you will know that OL is not in anyway less important than any minister, if not more.

  18. I’m glad you have time to make field trips like this. It’s a good sign for people who are being led by politicians.
    On the attic issue, it is a help to people in a place like Thimphu where the upper Motithang area seems reserved for the elite with exorbitant rental charge.
    It is nevertheless unhealthy. So, should we resolve it by putting a ban on it or by relaxing the rules and regulations? Something for intelligence to judge ……….where is our ‘intelligentsia’?

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply