Phase IV Groundbreaking, Fall 2023

“Phase VI is not just a building to me. It is a testament to our unwavering commitment
to the heritage and future of Bhutan.”

Her Majesty the Gyalym Sangay Choden Wangchuck

Her Majesty and Dr. Frederik Paulsen, Phase IV groundbreaking, Nov. 5, 2023

Few creatures can match the formidable strength of the elephant.
Few art forms embody the rarity and timelessness of the weaving heritage of Bhutan.

On November 5, 2023, FRTAB Board members and supporters joined a solemn groundbreaking ceremony to launch construction of the RTA’s Convention Center and Auditorium, affectionately known as the Elephant. Phase IV of the RTA brings into symbolic and modern harmony the power of the elephant and the singularity of Bhutanese weaving.

It is always a delicate dance to introduce an endangered art to the larger world.  With Phase IV, state-of-the-art design will usher an ancient art form and its makers into a sustainable and ethically managed future. The symbol of the elephant reminds us not only of its power, but also its delicate and deliberate step. It is with this same care and intentionality that the Friends of the Royal Textile Academy have poured 20 years of bold planning, innovative design, and unstinting generosity into this fourth and final phase of the RTA.

The ceremonial groundbreaking was followed by the opening of Metamorphosis, a new exhibition fusing ancient materials and methods into modern art. Live music and an exuberant fashion show featuring contemporary design was a perfect closing to a momentous day.

Salhang Tendrel Ceremony

The day-long festivities began with a traditional Bhutanese groundbreaking ceremony known as salhang tendrel. Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Royal Patron of Royal Textile Academy, was ushered into the ceremonial tent by the ceremonial chipdrel procession. She was joined by FRTAB and RTA board members, foreign diplomats, senior government officials, and other RTA supporters.

A solemn moment as Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck and his Eminence Tsugla Lopen Karma Rangdrol preside over the Salhang rituals for the groundbreaking ceremony

Phase IV comprises a massive and integral component of the RTA complex. A state-of-the-art auditorium and conference hall with retail shops and underground parking are the key features, as well as a central tower with offices and a roof-top restaurant in view of the spectacular Thimphu valley and mountains. When complete, the conference center will play a critical role for Thimphu and the country of Bhutan by providing sustaining income for the RTA and a profound economic and cultural impact on the country. 

Metamorphosis: An Endangered Art Form Celebrates Endangered Species 

Following the groundbreaking ceremony, guests migrated to the RTA Museum’s new exhibit, Metamorphosis: Inspired by Birds and Bees of Bhutan. Beauty, inspiration, and design take flight at this new exhibit featuring artworks from the Weaving and Dyeing Workshop in Khoma, Lhuentse, and showcasing the connection between culture, ecology, and the world of textiles.





Bhutanese artisans and designers bring to their weaves a centuries-long reverence and respect for the natural world. Financial support of Metamorphosis from FRTAB donors such as the Geiger Family Foundation help to put wings on these already immensely talented designers. Metamorphosis spotlights the creations of eight designers from various dzongkhags (regions), including two local designers from Tashigang and Pemagatshel, and weavers from Khoma, the birthplace of Bhutan’s famous küshuthara, a special kind of weave using silk and regarded as one of the most colorful and intricately woven textiles in the nation.


Metamorphosis was conceived with the goal of mainstreaming bio-diversity and conservation into the tourism sector and to promote the unique textile arts of Bhutan. Put another way, Metamorphosis makes eloquent the necessity of supporting the makers of an endangered art who are using their weaves to champion equally endangered species.

A Contemporary Fashion Show inspired by Metamormophis 


A vibrant and stirring fashion show capped the Phase IV celebrations. Models delighted with audience with contemporary designs made from raw silks and natural dyes from the Khoma Weaving and Dyeing Workshop. “I would like to thank the RTA for conducting this kind of program,” said Damcho Dema, a designer. “I am from Trashigang and it is difficult to sell my products there. But with a program like this in Thimphu, it will be helpful for us to sell our products as there are lots of tourists here.”