The Dragon Garden is a pioneering landscaping project at the Druk Padma Karpo School in Ladakh, India, being undertaken by students and staff from the Landscape Architecture programmes of the University of Greenwich.

Work began on the Dragon Garden in 2012 in an ambitious project that will transform the environment surrounding the school from barren desert land into a sustainable, lush garden. Students will be able to use the garden for sport and play activities as well as learning and food production.

Michael Kern, former osteopath, is a supporter and Trustee of the Drukpa Trust charity that founded the Druk Pema Karpo (White Lotus) School to promote the culture and heritage of the local area through education. You can learn more about Drukpa Trust and construction of the Druk Padma Karpo School in the PDF attachment to this post.

School and Campus Environment

The school and campus of Druk Padma Karpo were severely damaged in 2010 by a mudslide. On top of this, the environment is cold desert, creating a need for a relevant landscape design that ties in with the Himalayan region. The school design is based on the Tibetan mandala, which is visually based on a circle and square design. More information about the mandala can be found in the embedded short video.

A nine-square grid of classrooms is arranged within a circle in a sustainable design utilising both traditional construction techniques from Ladakh and modern technology. The school was constructed of local materials and features composting toilets and solar power. The design is highly influenced by Buddhism but is not designated as a sacred space, following the ‘Green Buddhism’ design approach.

Counteracting Urbanisation

Increasing urbanisation is presenting challenges for the Ladakh region as previously cultivated land is taken over. Young locals are losing enthusiasm for the traditional discipline of agriculture and instead turning to more lucrative trade in areas such as tourism.

Through the creation of the Dragon Garden, it is hoped that more young people will be inspired to learn more about their ancestral heritage through hands-on activity. The Dragon Garden will act as an example of how, with the right knowledge and resources, even the most barren desert landscape can be altered beyond recognition to an area of biodiversity, conservation, animal habitats and sustainability. This project will run in tandem with the solar energy scheme of the school to improve carbon offsetting.

In the infographic attachment you can read about some of the features that are planned for the Dragon Garden.

Conservation and Climate Change

The completed Dragon Garden will extend the vegetated area of the cold desert region and increase the biomass, which will hopefully encourage increased biodiversity by providing more habitats for birds and other animals. Students will then be able to use this area to learn about biodiversity through proximity to animal and plant species.

Water conservation is already a key aspect of the design of the school and will be integrated into the Dragon Garden also, with drip irrigation systems for efficient use of water. Recycling initiatives will also be extended to the garden, such as composting.

Students will not only be able to experience these measures first-hand, but also learn more about the effects of climate change and the challenges it presents in terms of water availability, food production and other aspects of life. These students will carry that awareness into their adult lives, having learned from direct contact and experience.

There are many investment opportunities available for funding aspects of the Dragon Garden throughout all phases of construction.