Bhutan to build “Mindfulness City” in Gelephu

Inspired by Bhutan’s Buddhist heritage, the proposed “Mindfulness City” will cover about 2.5% of the country between South and Southeast Asia.

Martine Panzica17 April 2024
An architectural rendering of an inhabitable bridge in Mindfulness City. Image by Brick Visual / BIG.

Bhutan is pioneering the creation of the world’s first “Mindfulness City,” a sustainable economic hub located in the town of Gelephu along the country’s southern border with India. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan announced plans for the city in December, which when built will cover about 250,000 acres. The plans for the city aim to incorporate the natural ecology of the land and serve as a center for sustainable investment and development. 

Bhutan is well-known for its creation and value of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, a philosophy and series of nine measurable indicators for citizens’ wellbeing and happiness. The Mindfulness City is largely based on each of these nine indicators, including include psychological well-being, health, education, community vitality, and cultural diversity.

Rendering by Brick Visual / BIG.

The proposed plans, designed by Danish sustainability architect Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) with Arup and Cistri, shape the proposed city around 35 rivers and streams, transitioning in density to work in tandem with the environmental landscape and protect from flooding in monsoon season. The city is connected by a series of “inhabitable bridges,” and will include the a new airport, hospital, and university. The plans also feature the Sankosh Temple-Dam, which houses a series of staircases for mindful walking trails, as well as stairs that lead to an elevated temple. 

Rendering by Brick Visual / BIG.

In the announcement of these plans, King Khesar described the city as “one of a kind, anchored on the vision and values of GNH. It will be a Mindfulness City, encompassing conscious and sustainable businesses, inspired by Buddhist spiritual heritage, and distinguished by the uniqueness of the Bhutanese identity.” 

Buddhist teacher and founder of Mangala Shri Bhuti, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, attended the unveiling of these plans, and described the inspiration and intersectional influences of the plans.

“With the Mindfulness City, His Majesty seeks to create a hybrid model of modernity, integrating the significant achievements in technology, science, and medicine from recent decades, yet at the same time, maintaining serenity, calmness, compassion, and an untouched vibrancy of an ancient culture, its art, and way of life,” he writes.

From left to right: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Dungse Jampal Norbu.

“The Mindfulness City will be a multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic enclave where all residents can live under common laws founded upon the Buddhist principles of compassion and wisdom,” Kongtrul Rinpoche writes.

There is currently no set timeline for the city, as it will depend on how “business developments progress,” but a ground-breaking ceremony for the city’s airport took place in December.

Martine Panzica

Martine Panzica

Martine Panzica is a Digital Editorial Assistant at Lion’s Roar. She is passionate about the power of storytelling in media, and sustainable development. To learn more about her, visit