Arup Associates' and Arup's award-winning Druk White Lotus School in Northern India has been severely affected by the heavy downpours, flash floods and mud slides in the area over the past few days. Nearby Choglamsar and Leh are understood to be the worst affected areas. However, 200 children boarding at The Druk White Lotus School have been successfully evacuated to a Shey Palace on higher ground.
Arup has a volunteer - Anokhee Shah - based in Ladakh to work on the future phases of the school project. Shah is currently assisting in the clean up and relief work at the School together with staff, who are all safe. The aim is to restart teaching at the School in phases, and as soon as next week, with older children resuming classes first and younger, and therefore more vulnerable children, starting at a later date.
Initial inspection at The Druk White School has indicated only limited structural damage to the buildings, but many internal walls and floors need to be replaced. Overall, the anti-seismic school buildings have withstood the flow of the mud deluge. Arup Associates and Arup will nonetheless undertake studies in London and Ladakh into further mitigation design strategies in view of possible future natural disasters.
The Druk White Lotus School support team in London including the Arup Associates and Arup design team is also working to mobilise medical and disaster relief expertise to help Ladakhis in need.
Amongst its many recognitions worldwide, The Druk White Lotus School has received The British Council for School Environment Award for - The most inspiring building globally' (2009). Arup Associates has also won multiple sustainability awards for the project.
The school in Ladakh was chosen as a winner from over 170 entries. The client, Philip Cornwell from Drukpa Trust, said: 'It shows what passion, vision, commitment and good teamwork can achieve'. Philip is currently in Ladakh to greet the school founder, His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, as he completes a 400 kilometre charity walk in the Himalayas to raise money for the school, among other projects.
The Druk White Lotus School is an outstanding example of the Arup Associates' unified design methodology to generate truly sustainable design. The project has produced and sustained a new school, currently with 506 pupils in the remote and often harsh environment of the western Himalayas.
Working intimately with the client for almost fifteen years, Arup Associates and Arup have formulated new approaches to education in Ladakh. The result is a school that offers 'whole life' sustainability, a combination of energy conservation, sustaining local identity and building using native techniques and materials. The project is a model of sustainability: not only in the obvious sense but more importantly in the sense that traditional cultural values, spirituality and materials are maintained.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was moved by the outcome. 'The idea of having a modern school which lays equal emphasis on the importance of preserving the valuable aspects of a traditional culture is very encouraging,' he commented. 'I have always believed in giving equal importance to both modern, scientific knowledge and traditional Buddhist Culture.'
Work at the school continues, with the addition of a new school Library, Senior School Classrooms, an additional Residence and IT facilities. Arup Associates is working closely with the Trust and His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa to understand and define what happens 'post-16', when this phase of works is completed in 2011. By then the Trust will have achieved a full school of 750 pupils, up to age 16 - an impressive achievement in a difficult environment.