View of bridge outside Punakha, where the 5th King of Bhutan married several years ago.
One of the most exciting parts of learning about Bhutan has been an odd, wonderful gem I learned from some people, ironically, here in Los Angeles.
The late architect Kurt Meyer and his intrepid wife Pamela Deuel Meyer kindly clued me in to the fact that the University of Texas El Paso is built entirely in the style of Bhutanese architecture.
It’s all because the wife of the provost of the school at the time, then named the Texas School of Mines, was reading this article in the National Geographic 100 years ago, poetically titled Castles in the Air.
The first king of Bhutan was crowned during a visit by John Claude White, who worked for the Brits “next door” in India.
John Claude White, who built a bridge between Bhutan and El Paso, Texas–without realizing it
The British explorer John Claude White offered a peak inside the Kingdom that the world, certainly not the west, had ever seen before. 88 pages of photographs made on plate glass, that somehow managed to make it out of Bhutan on horseback.
Tantalized by the architecture and this mysterious Kingdom in the clouds, Kathleen Worrell pushed her husband to model the school he ran after this unique place—long before any tourists could ever imagine visiting it.
You have to look awfully close, at the center of this photograph, to see the hermit house
Used to be, if you wanted to see that article, you had to plunk down a pretty penny for a back issue, or find it at a library, or in someone’s dusty old collection. Not as of today. The good folks at National Geographic have published it online, photographs and all.
The dzong in Thimphu looks much like this photograph from 100 years ago.
If you are at all interested in Bhutan, its history, or UTEP, or the impact of a magazine article to inspire someone half a world away, you must read it: here.
And here’s my piece about the unique connection in the LA Times.
UTEP calls itself “Bhutan on the Border” (of Mexico, of course.)