Gurdwara docked by the riverbank


| Vishal J Singh Gurdwara Design | 23 Jan 2016 | Asia Samachar |

Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh

A city is a living organism. 

In many ways, it acts the same way you and I do, as living, breathing sentient beings. Cities are born and they die, they expand and they contract, they consume and they excrete and they have a past and they have a future, all contained within the present. Don’t take it literally, but rather metaphorically, in the poetic sense. It is from this perspective of thought in architectural theory and philosophy that the idea that the city is more than a collection of roads and buildings, but somehow through the total sum of its parts, it is said that a city even has a “soul”, just like you and I.

Contemplating from this point of view, we can begin to formulate interesting comparisons as to how the city is indeed like a living organism. One of the more thought provoking concepts in regards to this kind of thinking is that if the arteries and veins in the human body act as a series of connecting roots and points that allow the movement of blood and nutrients to flow from one place to another for the benefit of the body, does that mean that roads, highways and pathways mutually act the same way for a city?

Indeed, are the various layers of infrastructure that allow for the flow and transport of people and produce within a dynamic network of points and connections akin to the arteries and veins of a city? What an intriguing idea! 

Let us take a moment to assume that this is true, that is the chaotic overlapping and intermingling mixture of roads, streets, pathways, highways, etc. that connect the various locales of a city really do act like arteries and veins. That they do transport both people and produce to wherever they need to go, in the same way that blood, for instance, is “transported” within the body to wherever it needs to go to nourish the physical wellbeing of the host.

If that were true, then surely a more well connected a building was to its natural and man-made infrastructure, the better it would be in serving the needs of the occupants of the building in terms of facilitating the flow of both people and produce in an efficient method and manner. 

Based on this conclusion, we could then apply better principles of vehicular and pedestrian connection in an urban context, through the direct linking of the building to its infrastructure, namely to existing and proposed public transportation networks, like busses,  taxis, rapid transit trains and even public sharing bicycles. The next step is then to consider how we can modernise the Gurdwara to take advantage of the various public transportation systems available in cities all over the world to help members of the Sikh Sanggat and even the non-Sikhs access our houses of worship as easily as possible. 

The Gurdwara design proposed here connects to the various existing public transportation stations in a very direct manner. In fact, its proposed location – “docked” by the riverbank like a sailing ship at rest – takes advantage of the possibility of a future, where the river becomes a transportation channel for water–based transportation, like water taxis and water buses, popular in cities like Venice or Bangkok.

The inspiration behind this Gurdwara design comes from a well-known verse in Gurbani which goes, Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai, Chade So Uttre Paar O Nanak, which translates as “says Guru Nanak, the name of Waheguru is like a ship which will take you to your salvation,” and so it seemed (architecturally) apt that the literal form and physical appearance of the Gurdwara resembles a “ship” of some kind, equipped with main structures that look like sails of a vessel at sea.

An architectural manifestation of an understanding of a sacred verse from Gurbani became the dominant inspiration and guidance behind the expressive and striking appearance of the gurdwara – where sacrosanct poetry is translated into graceful built form, thus music and language becomes the source of building inspiration. 

Based on this approach, the Gurdwara, affectionately dubbed the Jahaz Junction, will be designed with the following principles and strategies in mind.

Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh
  • It will be firmly connected (literally and directly) to the adjacent LRT (light rapid transit) station that would allow people who want to go to the gurdwara or leave after everything is over as conveniently as possible. Creating a direct link from one place to another psychologically gives the impression to people that their destination is easier, hindrance-free, and much faster than it actually is, thus subtly compelling them to visit the Gurdwara as often as possible.
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh
  • The Darbar Sahib is immediately accessible to the left of the main entrance and on the right side an open plaza with a monumental shaded canopy becomes the public assembly area for the Gurdwara. In the middle is the Ek Ongkar insignia and the khanda is on the reverse side, placed on a black granite podium that seems to be floating on the water. A staircase leads to the Langgar Hall downstairs next to the classrooms and offices to allowing privacy from the street level above while being connected to the jetty and having views of the river, surrounded by aquatic landscaping.
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 22 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 22 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh
  • A customised taxi and bus stand specifically for the Gurdwara will be built immediately outside the main entrance to allow for a direct drop off or pick up point for the Sanggat and the public alike. As for parking bays, there will be an empty site next to the Gurdwara that will cater to individual owned vehicles.
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 23 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh
  • A public bicycle sharing system, similar to what is being done in Paris and Rome will be implemented, to allow for people to cycle to Gurdwara as an alternate healthy approach to transportation. The current location proposed has a bike lane specifically for this purpose.
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 22 Jan 2016 - Photo / Vishal J Singh
Gurdwara Design, Asia Samachar, 22 Jan 2016 – Photo / Vishal J Singh
  • It will have a deck connected directly to the river for the possible future where the river will be used as a transportation route through water taxis and water buses. Currently, in the city of Kuala Lumpur, a project called the River Of Life is currently under way, where the main rivers of the city will be rehabilitated and where there is talk of using the rivers as a transportation route will be considered. The proposal takes into account that possibility.

As mentioned in my previous articles, this idea for a Gurdwara is just a conceptual proposal, and the idea behind these proposals is to encourage creative and out-of-the-box style thinking in establishing contemporary concepts in Gurdwara design. The idea of buildings connected extensively to its surrounding infrastructure in order to encourage and facilitate effective pedestrian and vehicular flow is an exciting concept in contemporary architectural design, and I believe that a Gurdwara that positions itself to take advantage of the vibrant and robust flow of movement would benefit greatly from a heighted sense of public participation and liveliness.


NEXT ARTICLE: A review of how a modern Gurdwara can act as an architectural hybrid prototype for social and cultural fusion, mixing elements of the East into its Sikh identity. Happy Chinese New Year, dear reader!


Vishal J.Singh, an aspiring architect, holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website:]


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  1. Thanks! That’s exactly what I wanted to achieve! I want to break free from the past and come up with new ideas! To explore new venues to represent my thoughts ! To express in my mind what sikhi is to me and not be bonded by the past! And I get one star out of 10? Great! One star was all the earth needed to sustain life on this planet! Thanks man! You just made my day!

  2. i disagree with the architectural language of the proposed gurdwara. I in no way condone a traditional gurdwara to be built, but this interpretation has a terrible scale of the screen and is not reminiscent of the shikh values, traditions or beliefs. 1 star out of 10!