The Gurdwara as a Gallery


| Vishal J SinghGurdwara Design | 8 July 2016 | Asia Samachar |

01GGVIEWAXOBIn my previous article, I had a proposed a design for a Gurdwara that could be structurally supplemented with an art gallery annex, that could be used to highlight and showcase some of our most precious relics and artworks to the us and the general public as well. When artworks are brought from overseas, say Punjab to Malaysia, the display areas are generally mundane and uninspiring makeshift spaces.

Hence, I had proposed designing a Gurdwara with an art gallery  that can house our most precious artworks for a beneficial viewing to ourselves and the public in a more appropriate and contemporary setting. These exhibitions showcasing the best of our artistic treasures can be temporary or permanent, and can be used by artists and the public alike as a platform for education and propagation of classical and contemporary Sikh art.

SEE ALSO: Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? The Assessment.

SEE ALSO: ‘Gurdwara of learning’ coming to Shah Alam

This article will focus on what the interiors of two major spaces within this Gurdwara: the Darbar Sahib and the Art Gallery Annex. As a Gurdwara emphasising on artistic pursuits as a key cultural element in our society, the interior design and appearance focuses on artistic brilliance as its main visual element.

02-DS-GG01BThe main space, as always in any Gurdwara, is the Darbar Sahib (See Photo V02, above). Here, it is surrounded by a complex but rich composition of metal “leaves” that are a mix of golden and silver patterns. This metal screen provides a visually dramatic enclosure of the Darbar Sahib, which allows pockets of sunlight through filter its semi-transparent walls, thus bathing the interiors of the Darbar Sahib with a powerful play of light and shadow.

03-DS-GG02BThe Palki, where the Guru Granth Sahib is placed, rests on an octagon shaped marble base, surrounded by water and spherical golden lanterns that seem to float on the water itself. Symbolically this represents an abstract artistic concept, where the water represents the universe, the lanterns represent the stars and the location of the Palki and the Guru Granth Sahib represents the centre of creation itself, and by approaching the Palki would be poetically akin to approaching God Himself who is in the centre of all things.

03a-06-DS-GG03bThe Palki housing the Guru Granth Sahib is adorned in gold columns, bases and domes itself, which conveys a sense of utter preciousness, that can be approached by a timber based “bridge”, again as an artistic gesture that shows upon approaching the Guru Granth Sahib, then truly you will experience the brilliance of real spiritual wealth while foregoing all before you as menial and insignificant.

04-AG0VIEW01BNow, we turn to the art gallery annex. It is located near the Darbar Sahib where our most precious artworks, such as paintings, objects, and artifacts can be displayed in a contemporary manner. The interiors of art galleries then to be simple to allow the artworks displayed within to really be visually appreciated and thus galleries are usually clutter – free spaces.

05-AG0VIEW02BBy designing a simple layout, the artworks displayed within will take the full attention of the viewer. By keeping the arrangement of the artwork as efficient as possible, a clear circulatory route can be suggestively expressed which allows people to systematically move within the space from one point to another to best appreciate whatever artwork catches their eye.

As mentioned in the previous article, 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. Beyond that, the gallery and studio also recognises the power that art has in bringing people together as community, by proposing specific structures or design elements that highlight that message (that art is important to us a community). This design proposed here hopes to raise awareness that the pursuit of visual excellence is not an exercise in vanity, but a genuine attempt to leave a lasting legacy of artistic wonder to us Sikhs, and indeed to contribute a significant gesture to the collective artworks of all of humanity as well.


The next article will focus on the possibility of a designing a Gurdwara for the study of music and the performance arts such as drama, plays, workshops, etc. It will be supplemented with photos of an urban based site and perspectives as usual.

Vishal1aVishal J.Singh, an aspiring architect, holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur


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