The representative for Christopher Benninger defended the legality and legitimacy of the Indian-American architect on grounds that the government of Bhutan invited the ‘unregistered foreign consultant’ to design the new Pemagatshel dzong.
In an e-mailed response to The Bhutanese, Benninger’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ramprasad Akkisetti said they were not aware of any mandatory registrations of firms with Construction Developmental Board (CDB).
“We have been invited by the Government of Bhutan through a letter, which does not mention any such registration or clauses for being shortlisted to design the Pemagatshel Dzong. I am sure the Government that has invited the architects is aware of the processes,” said the PRO.
He said consultancy firms and architects must take interest to compete in the design of the Dzong, rather than being worried about some fulfillment of registration process, which would not necessarily lead to best architectural design.
“It is obvious that a learned panel of jury will select the architect based on the design and not on registration in the CDB,” he said. “Christopher had never applied to design National Secretariat complex, the Supreme Court, the Tshechu Ground or even the Pemagatshel Dzong.”
The letter states: “In fact the Government of Bhutan had invited him to make a proposal for the Thimphu Structure Plan and to enter the competition for the upper house of Parliament.”
The PRO said despite being a foreign consultant, he won from a jury of all Bhutanese architects in the Ministry of Works and Human Settlements (MoWHS).
The letter highlighted, when Benninger and Thimphu urban planner Geley Norbu were worked on the Thimphu Structure Plan, he felt the need for a qualified professional architect to sign the plans.
Therefore the Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations for the Bhutan Institute of Architects (BIA) was drafted. After the formation of Institute, Christopher Beginner’s application was rejected, although many other foreign architects were admitted.
“It seems there was a great deal of jealously over Christopher’s selection for the National Secretariat complex,” Ramprasad Akkisetti said.
He said this paper should ask the BIA President Dorji Yangki, why she is ardent on keeping Christopher from working in Bhutan when Rajni Chavada a British architect of India origin, does the same work in Bhutan?
He said BIA can always accept Benninger’s membership to an organization he was involved in initiating, and then he can be recognized by the board.
However the architects from BIA said they didn’t receive any response from department of culture under Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) till date.
“We are giving some time to the department as fire in Wangduephodrang Dzong, left the nation in turmoil,” said the architect from BIA.