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Lhasa Jebumgang temple, 3-D model by Ken Okuma based on THF survey. Photo: Tibet Haritage Fund

TADC was founded in 1991 as an integral part of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives (LTWA), JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING . It primarily aims to act as a significant guiding force for disseminating information about Tibetan Architecture as a living and evolving practice.

The imperative need for this has arisen as the now exiled Tibetan diasporas continue to build and search for not only root connections to the traditions of their unique architecture but also to search for contemporary formulations that can be identified as Tibetan. The TADC will therefore become the leading reference source regarding Tibetan Architecture worldwide. In addition, it will also become the focal point for debate and documentation of the idiosyncrasies, styles and practices of contemporary architecture as practiced by Tibetans or in the service of the Tibetan community worldwide.


The work of the TADC is organized around five separate sections as follows:

  1. Library of Specialist Books. This library is a satellite of the main LTWA library and contains books in many languages that pertain to Tibetan architectural practices. The cataloguing of this library is included within the main cataloguing system of the LTWA.
  2. Slide Library. Currently there are about 12,000 color and black and white slides covering the vast geographical area of Tibet. These include all the areas where Tibetan influences have significantly affected the culture and architecture of the region.
  3. Documentation. This section consists of a collection of files and photographs arranged and indexed according to the major centers and settlements where buildings influenced by Tibetan architecture have been built in the past and in contemporary times.
  4. Database. TADC is currently expanding it's computerized data base which will include a web site as well as digitized information that is stored in hard copy format in the other sections. This will enable remote access to the data by scholars and practitioners worldwide through the Internet.
  5. Special activities. In addition to the four sections mentioned above, TADC holds special activities such as exhibitions, seminars, conferences and workshops to promote good practice in contemporary Tibetan architecture. Some of these activities also relate to the historic aspects of Tibetan architecture with a view to eventually publish a definitive work on the history of Tibetan architecture.


As physical manifestations of culture, Tibetan monuments have been particularly attacked since the 1959 Chinese occupation. Over 6,000 Tibetan monuments and buildings have been systematically demolished. A microcosm, Tibetan architecture encapsulates central themes of Tibetan religious beliefs, social and political ethos, technology, inter- and intra-cultural relations. The structure of a building exemplifies and reinforces the structure of the culture in a three dimensional format. In continuing with cultural annihilation, traditional architecture is suppressed for modern replacements of this ancient way of life. Exiled, traditional craftsmen currently preserve Tibetan architecture by replicating ancient buildings. However, Tibetan architecture stands on a slope sliding into extinction and no building built in exile can singly represent the Tibetan community. The need for a centre to preserve, document, disseminate and, hopefully, encourage the natural development of the architecture of ancient Tibet and the Trans-Himalayan region has long been felt. The Tibetan Architecture Documentation Centre (TADC) was formed in 1991 as a part of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), to document the precarious tradition and act as a data bank for future research and constructions. Since its inception, the TADC, has focused on three main goals: documentation, preservation and dissemination of information related to Tibetan and Trans-Himalayan Architectural heritage. From an academic perspective, TADC continues to document, index, and store a growing archive of over 12,000 color and black and white photographs and slides. This collection particularly includes locations where Tibetan influences have significantly affected the regional culture and architecture. For example, volunteers documented several monasteries and structures in Ladakh and the neighboring regions, keeping the flow of information and preservation alive. In addition to visual data, a seminal collection of related texts, articles, and grid maps is growing through the aide of volunteers, scholars and donators. Both the visual and written materials are currently being compiled into a computerized database, which will eventually go online. Connected with the fledgling website, the TADC equally works for the international and local dissemination of information and dialogue relating to Tibetan and Trans-Himalayan Architecture. The database and website act as a mecca for gathering information and opening dialogue among scholars, practitioners, and the simply interested. Branching international and local boundaries, the TADC has begun hosting informal seminars and discussions. Locally, an architecture club, mainly comprised of students and open to all interested, was formed with the generous funding of the Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBF). This club seeks to inspire an awareness and appreciation among the younger generations, our remarkable future, towards architecture; it's traditions, as well as the cultural rights of Tibetans, of humans. The Architecture club has held an informal exhibition and plans for more. The TADC, itself, holds exhibitions incorporating local as well as foreign practitioners. Culminating all these factors, the TADC performs simply one part in preserving the living, invaluable spiritual and physical dimensions of the "Roof of the World."


TADC has created a five-year plan to develop the five sections as the main resource base of the center. In order to realize this objective, the center is in the process of identifying and preparing project proposals for funding, details of which are available as separate Project Proposals. The resource base of each of the sections will be built up with the following projects.


  • Collect, digitize, catalogue and store growing library of color and black and white slides, especially those which are pre-1959, rare, or in private collections, as well as modern monuments and buildings. TADC stores the data in specialized containers in dehumidifying chambers to insure longevity.
  • Continue to acquire and document written data, photographs and measured drawings of Tibet and the Himalayan region.
  • Create a standardized, accessible database of the aforementioned materials as well as supplementary texts, grid maps, and an Inventory Form for scholars and practitioners to add information and create dialogue.
  • Expand satellite library of pertinent specialist manuscripts, books, and articles in various languages.
  • Construct a permanent exhibition space and extend the documentation area in the Library to create a standing display of architectural drawings, photographs and slides.
  • Host local and traveling exhibitions, organize seminars, conferences, and workshops.
  • Publish a biannual newsletter, Tibetan Architecture handbooks and, in the future, publish a definitive work on the history of Tibetan Architecture.
  • In addition to acquiring more computers and related technology, TADC plans to create and update a TADC website extending from the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives website within the Tibetan Government in Exile web page. This will include the designing of special programs customized to the needs of the centre as well as creating international links for those currently practicing or interested in this field.

Are you interested in helping? Whether you are an architect or not (most volunteers to date are actually not from architecture related fields), you can make valuable contributions to the goals of TADC. This can be financial assistance, volunteering in various aspects of this organization from researching to indexing of new data, or donating visual or written information to the databank and library. Please include the appropriate information regarding your type of donation. Thank you!


From March 26th till April 3rd 2001, the TADC will hold an exhibition entitled "Identity and Styles of Tibetan Architecture." This eagerly anticipated exhibition continues TADC's aims of documentation, dissemination and dialogue among those currently studying and conserving Tibetan architecture as well as opening discussion among the newly interested. The exhibition seeks to provide a rounded view of Tibetan and Trans-Himalayan architecture incorporating local and foreign practitioners. A living entity, we hope the exhibition will generate continuing interest and awareness among the people in this area connected to these issues as well as among the many travelers to Dharamshala. We hope to commemorate and further Tibetan Architecture by creating a qualified base of practitioners, craftspeople, and builders to help Tibet and Tibetan people redevelop into a thriving, healthy community. Included in the exhibition are as follows:

  • An exploration of the Tibetan Mandala and its architectural significance
    This includes the pre-exhibition on-site creation of a sand mandala by Namgyal Monastery monks supplemented with an explanatory text, video, and a currently completed three-dimensional model.
  • Photo and Drawing Exhibition
    Photographs and drawings of Tibetan and Trans-Himalayan buildings before and after 1959.
  • Contemporary Architecture
    Works from contemporary Tibetan architects, including Dorje Wangdi Dewatshang and Claude Arpi of the Tibet Pavilion at Pondicherry, will display traditional and innovative styles of developing Tibetan architecture, including design and building concepts from the Maitreya Project.
  • Trans-Himalayan Display by Conservation Architects and Archeologists
    This includes work by Conservation Architect Janhwij Sharma in the Western Himalayas, Archeologist John Bellezza in the Changthang areas, Pamela Logan's research on homes in the Kham and Robert Powell's paintings of the Mustang Valley.
  • Model and Development Plan of Gangchen Kyishong
    This includes the first modeled drawings and detailed site model of the Dharamashala Tibetan Administrative area.
  • Stupas and their Architectual Relevance
    A first of it's kind, this section combines drawings of and 2ft model Stupa prototypes.
  • Architecture Club
    Students from the Architecture club will display research projects from the Himalayas.
  • Seminar and public talks on Tibetan Architecture
    Topics include:
      Traditional Tibetan Architecture
      Contemporary Developments of Tibetan Architecture
      Policies and Practices in the Conservation and Preservation of Tibetan Monuments
      The Future of Tibetan Architecture

a note by Robert van Mulligen

The TADC is a non-profit organization under the auspices of the Library of Tibetan Works and Affairs, Dharamsala, India and is run entirely by volunteers. It is my work to collect data and/or photographs on important Tibetan buildings and monuments in Tibet. Presently I am concentrating on the Lhasa area and would like to request you for any information (e.g. data, photographs) concerning buildings in Lhasa or the direct environment of Lhasa that would be valuable for me. All data from both before 1959 and after 1959 are welcome. Of course, I am also very interested in recent photos on Tibetan buildings. If you do have valuable information and/or contacts for me, can you please send me an e-mail as soon as possible. If you also have any suggestions where I can find more information (i.e. addresses or books), I shall pleased to receive it from you. Only in this way we can really build up one central database of all valuable data on Tibetan architecture. Robert van Mulligen ( JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING )


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