For centuries houses, palaces, dzongs, temples, bridges and utilitarian items for the home and the field have been and continue to be made with local materials consisting of a combination of stone, rammed earth, bamboo and local timber or wood. Timber is used lavishly in all structures for windows, doors, stairs, balconies, columns, beams and other structural elements and for elaborate decorative cornices.
The techniques used by the craftspeople have remained relatively unchanged and even today the basic constructional elements for the building of a house are made by hand with the help of a few tools only. Buildings are not constructed according to a set floor plan but at the same time follow measurements dictated by the sacred scriptures. The carpenters plan and prepare the necessary building elements based on an understanding of the sacred texts and supervise the work when the construction begins. Massive Dzongs, Lhakhangs and Goenpas, palaces, houses - some of which are built on mountain tops, sheer cliff faces, at strategic places - are erected without either a floor plan and most remarkably without iron, not even nails.
Common to every structure are the intricate decorations, woodcarvings and brightly coloured patterns and murals on wall panels. Carvings of Lord Buddha and various other deities adorn the walls and altars of temples and shrines. The common motifs on more secular buildings are the druk (dragon), Tashi - Tagye and various legendary animals (refer article on symbols). The upper stories of a building boast remarkable woodwork with paintings seen frequently on the frames of the three lobed windows and on the ends of beams. Elaborately painted timber cornices are usually placed around the upper edges of the structure, just below the roof and above doors and windows. Windows and doors are also normally painted giving the houses a very festive appearance. Floral, animal and religious motifs are mainly used as themes for the colourful paintings.
Ecologically sound local construction technology has developed in response to the
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