Tibetan Resettlement Community

Location: Dehradun, India

Project type: refugee resettlement community

Client: His Holiness the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Government in Exile


  • homes
  • gompa (prayer temple)
  • school
  • community center
  • agricultural plots

This new resettlement community, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, was developed for the Tibetans who have existed in exile in northern India since 1959. Designed to be culturally sensitive to the way people live, work, grow their food and worship, the site is along a mountain ridge bound by a reserve forest and an agribusiness parcel. The traditional symbol of the Tibetan mandala, or prayer wheel, is reflected in the building plan of each unit and in the organization of the restricted site. The structures are seamlessly integrated into a unified community to avoid the stigma associated with institutional housing.

Sustainability in this project spans above and beyond the standard methods. The sloped site allows for an appropriately dense concentration of terraced houses, built to take advantage of the views and prevailing breezes for natural ventilation, water distribution and equipped with enclosed sanitary sewer drains for a healthy environment. The materials consist primarily of handmade brick, stucco plaster and insulated steel beam roofs. Perimeter roof drains at the base of the housing unit collect and reuse water while preventing erosion during monsoons.

The project has received international recognition and is the recipient of multiple design awards including from the American Institute of Architects.