| Vishal J Singh| Gurdwara Design | 17 June 2016 | Asia Samachar |
We Sikhs, undeniably, have a glorious history. There is so much for us to be proud of, in terms of history and culture, from being fierce and formidable warriors, to the divinity of our Scriptures, and to creating masterpieces of traditional art and architecture, that are still present today in India for us to marvel at. As a result of our phenomenal history, we have over the centuries created a vast legacy of artworks, ranging from paintings, relics, sculpture, weapons, etc. that are testament to the artistic creativities of our spirit as a community.
The discipline of art and its expressions are of paramount importance to any community on the globe, for it shows us and the world itself, the identity of a people, the cultural and historical roots that bind us together, and it allows us to manifest an instinctive need for us human beings to celebrate things that are important to us through the expression of art itself, which includes language, poetry and music as well.
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In our modern world, we can come to include film and theatre to be expressions of art, as well. It is part and parcel of the rich tapestry of human existence, preserved for all to enjoy. Occasionally, exhibitions and roadshows by patrons of the arts, such as museum committees or educational institutions, are held that allows the public to visit a building to see for themselves just how meaningful and beautiful some of these artworks can be.
Indeed, there are artworks that can truly uplift the human soul through it’s pure visual and aural excellence and inexplicably leaves us in a state of joy and awe.
Among our community, precious objects that showcase the ornate richness of Sikh history are periodically brought down from India to Kuala Lumpur for a public exhibition. Invaluable objects such as the wooden sandals worn by our Gurus, or the ceremonial swords and daggers used by our most respected warriors, and a host of other similar objects carry spiritual meaning to us. Over and above that, some of these objects have such a refined sense of craftsmanship and artistry that they can be considered great works of art themselves and not just objects of a utilitarian nature. Such objects carry great delight in its form. Hence, if collectively displayed together for a temporary exhibition, we can take pride in our history not just through the reading of factual information found in books, but through the appreciation of actual physical objects that are deeply meaningful, connected to our past.
However, when such exhibitions are held, essentially it would be in a makeshift space, meaning, that if a building gets selected, some of the rooms, deemed passably suitable, would be converted into a series of exhibition spaces that showcase such beautiful objects in a relatively uninspiring, mundane environment, devoid of any artistic integrity itself. Restraints in the real world unfortunately are understandable, but surely some effort could be made to design a more temporary gallery-like space that, if placed within, allows such beautiful artworks to “shine” and be the sole focus of our attention when approaching our artistic legacy. So I’ve always wondered, can a Gurdwara act as a gallery as well?
Could we design an accompanying structure to the main Gurdwara complex – which consists of The Darbar Sahib, The Langgar Hall and the Nishan Sahib Plaza – and add on an annex that would house our most precious objects when an exhibition occasionally takes place in a well-designed enclosure that acts as an art gallery and studio?
After all, our culture and history are important to us as a people. Therefore, physical items, akin to pieces of treasure connected back to our history are just as important to us as anything else that reminds us and bonds us to who we are as a collective community. Based on this notion, I propose that a modern Gurdwara can be designed to incorporate an exhibition annex as well to provide a respectable and decent venue to showcase precious objects and other significant artworks, such as paintings and sculptures of our past for everyone to see, which of course can easily include non-Sikhs as well.
Architecturally speaking, contemporary art galleries tend to be ultra-modern looking buildings that shimmer with a metal skin and expanses of pristine glass as its main structure. This conceptual Gurdwara, too, projects that ultra-modern identity, for it is not just in the past that we find artworks of great beauty in our grasp, but there are a number of contemporary Sikh artists globally that are producing beautiful contemporary artwork as well. This gallery can act as platform for the development of modern Sikh art and encourage young Sikhs who have an artistic flair to contribute their work in this emerging field.
As we enter the premises of this conceptual Gurdwara, the Darbar Sahib is ordained with an ornate screen of gold and silver triangular “leaves” that marks the identity of the Darbar Sahib as the most important structure in the Gurdwara Complex. The site of the Gurdwara is hypothetically placed nearby the world famous KLCC twin towers that has an art gallery of its own, which itself is a glimmering icon of modernism, and thus seems like a suitable location for this proposed ultra-modern Gurdwara.
The main pathway that leads to the open – air atrium of the Gurdwara is directly located next to the Art Gallery Annex, highlighted by an elongated frameless window that allows the outsider to glimpse in the structure to see some of the more prominent artworks, in this case a huge painting of faces.
Banners indicating exhibition details are hung high next to the Art Gallery Annex to provide indication of the nature of this Gurdwara as having an art gallery as part of its complex.
The Nishan Sahib Plaza contains a series of striking geometric red tiles showing a floral motif that serve as a huge ground-based canvas for visual effect. This reinforces the identity of this Gurdwara as an art-centric complex by creating a massive work of art accessible to anyone at any time of the day as means of engagement with the public in general.
The Langgar Hall is located next to the Darbar Sahib as a conveniently placed structure that is literally connected to the Darbar Sahib. It opens up to a field of grass for people to come in and out as they please through a pleasant landscaped atmosphere.
This Gurdwara encompasses and expresses the power of art on its premises. It recognises the power of art as an endeavour that can elevate the human spirit to heights that dazzle and inspire, but beyond that, the gallery and studio that the Gurdwara has, also recognises the power that art has in bringing people together as community. Art, and by extension language and music as well, enriches the human mind, heart and soul in a myriad of ways, bringing us great joy and pride in our talents and history. This Gurdwara serves to preserve Sikh art for the benefit for all of our society.
The next article will focus on the interiors of the Darbar Sahib, The Langgar Hall and The Art Gallery component of this ultra modern Gurdwara to showcase how contemporary architectural philosophies can influence the design of the internal layout and appearance of the complex.
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