Gurdwara Design: Food from the streets, for the people of the streets

In this instalment on GURDWARA DESIGN, Vishal J Singh explores th idea of land plots for growing food within the larger gurdwara compound


Gurdwara Design | 17 Jan 2017 | Asia Samachar |

By Vishal J Singh

Cities are messy places.

They are an unpredictably chaotic mix and noise and excitement, of development and abandonment, of energy and lifelessness, of the past and the future, and it all exists in one large urban-based jigsaw puzzle of opportunities, both gained and lost. Such is the nature of the designs of cities throughout the world directed by human hands from time immemorial.

Via the passage of time, it is only natural that people progress from one era to another, and consequently, progress from one space to another in alignment with their wants and needs. Unfortunately, on occasion, in our questionable dash to embrace things new as who we are as people often do, some things from our past get left behind. They are dismissed as being unimportant or useless, even though they may still hold value hidden from our sight during that particular point of view. Where cities are concerned, we see buildings that are left to ruin after we feel a sense of purpose for these establishments are no longer significant or relevant. Homes and hospitals, offices and orphanages, and many such places may outgrow their use and eventually be moved elsewhere and the original sites of these structures are forgotten into history.

But there is an interesting phenomena sweeping across the cities of the world today.

Some of these places that have been left abandoned, after their original buildings were demolished, are beginning to take on a new life. The “everyday people”, you and me essentially and through no government intervention, are taking these empty plots of land and converting them into something new called “urban farms”, which refers to planting edible plants to be sold or to be given away to the people to help them in their daily lives. It is an exemplary social–based cause that is meant to help the less fortunate, by providing them a chance to either run their own small farms in a financially sustainable manner or to simply provide food to be just given away as a gesture of kindness.

And so I wondered, with this humanitarian cause being as noble as it is, could we somehow incorporate this compassionate initiative into our Gurdwara architecture, allowing us to have some control on where our food source comes from, while giving some of it to those who need it away as part of our sewa?

And so in this design, I deal with this heartwarming architectural possibility. The following Gurdwara will of course carry out its holy mission as a venue for prayer and such, but part of its premises will be devoted to creating plots of land where food is grown, either for the consumption in our Langgar Hall, or to be simply given away to the public for their own personal use.

Gurdwara Design – Sketch by Vishal J Singh / Asia Samachar

The square plots of land called Urban Farming Plots, seen in the image above, will be used for planting various edible vegetables to be used in the kitchen of the Gurdwara for people in the Langgar Hall, and where some of it will be given to public through a series of stalls called the  Market Avenue, located at the front of the Gurdwara.

Gurdwara Design – Sketch by Vishal J Singh / Asia Samachar

The Gurdwara itself will be made of primarily recycled timber, with lots of natural landscaping and natural materials such as stone to cover the site but designed with a modern appearance. The timber used creates a warm inviting feeling and suits the idea of design that incorporates a farm on its premises.

Gurdwara Design – Sketch by Vishal J Singh / Asia Samachar

The Gurdwara itself will be divided into two main structures, which is the elevated Darbar Sahib on the left side and an open – air Langgar Hall on the right side, which is connected directly to the Urban Farming Plots and The Market Avenue. The Langgar Hall is an open structure, giving the impression of complete accessibility to everyone, and that’s why it’s designed as an open air hall rather than a closed one.  

Gurdwara Design – Sketch by Vishal J Singh / Asia Samachar

The Market Avenue is basically some stalls where people can engage with volunteers to take whatever vegetables that were harvested from the Urban Farming Plots located behind. It is a social venue, allowing the public to interact with the Sewadars from the Gurdwara in an atmosphere of mutual care and appreciation.

Gurdwara Design – Sketch by Vishal J Singh / Asia Samachar

The Darbar Sahib itself will have a protective timber screen, called a timber lattice, to wrap around its entire hall and create a striking geometric pattern from the front to the back. It will access through staircases located on both the front and the back to always project the impression its openness to everyone from all points of view.

The proposal here allows the Gurdwara to take the wonderful and noble idea of preparing food to be given to the Sanggat and the public completely free of charge with an additional manner, as a supplementary method that compliments the sewa performed in the kitchen and the Langgar Hall. It also helps the Gurdwara committee to better monitor the quality of the vegetables served to the Sanggat and the public itself, while helping to take advantage of plots of land that are left idle that can be put to better use for the benefit of the people and the environment. Truly, serving those in hunger could never be considered as an exercise in vain, and this proposal simply expresses that divine intention of our faith and culture and manifests it even further.


The next article will focus on the possibility of a designing a Gurdwara that incorporates a clinic and essentially a compact medical centre for the sick and the disabled. It will be provided with site photos and the relevant context to support the proposal.


Vishal1aVishal 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:]


Where music is as lovely as prayer (Asia Samachar, 26 Sept 2016)

The Gurdwara as a Gallery (Asia Samachar, 8 July 2016)

Building a gurdwara in a slice of paradise (Asia Samachar, 12 May 2016)



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  1. Doubtful if anyone will be willing and take the risk of having any of new design Gurdwaras when the common objective is functionality and economy. If functionality and economy were the prime considerations in the past then it is doubtful if any of the unique and historical Gurdwaras in India and elsewhere would have been considered.

    Gur Fateh

    PS: My comment may appear to be biased as Vishal is my son but my view is for all new designs by anyone.