A Gurdwara Of Light For Spirit And Mind

A contemporary Gurdwara design incorporating an entire library, equipped with latest multimedia and internet based technologies, as part of its complex; both visually dynamic and intellectually engaging for the congregation


Gurdwara Design | 31 July 2017 | Asia Samachar |

By Vishal J. Singh

Knowledge is everything.

All the great religions in the world, since time immemorial, have consistently encouraged the faithful of its flock to seek knowledge, both of the earth (material) and of the heavens (spiritual) so that we may live a prosperous and balanced life while serving what little time we have as human beings on this beautiful planet. The pursuit of knowledge is, therefore, the noblest of all missions bestowed upon humanity, and the chance to spend a lifetime to obtain as much knowledge as possible for the benefit of both the individual and of society, becomes of absolute paramount importance and significance.

Recognising this principle of appreciating and treasuring knowledge then became the key design strategy behind the concept of the following contemporary Gurdwara design.

Undeniably, our Gurdwaras have always been treasure troves of enriching literature encompassing information both religious and practical, and there is no suspicion that these have helped people by providing guidance for centuries since our Gurdwaras were first established by the Divine Authority of our wonderful Gurus.

In most Gurdwaras today however, the role of library–like facilities and spaces has diminished unfortunately, and it is occasionally heartbreaking to see the numerous collections of books, journals, magazines and other reading materials left to collect dust on the shelves of these places, unopened for the longest periods of time.

And so I thought, wouldn’t it be pertinent and interesting to have a contemporary Gurdwara design incorporate an entire library, equipped with the latest multimedia and internet based technologies as part of its complex, that is both visually dynamic and intellectually engaging for the members of the Sanggat. And so that particular line of thought was explored, and eventually birthed the latest concept behind the following Gurdwara design, which is a result of that intriguing notion.

The concept behind the design of this Gurdwara is based on two principles. First, the actual design of the structure of the Gurdwara, which is a series of 3 floors stacked on top of each other, as a literal representation of how a pile of books would be stacked on top of each other.

The Gurdwara consists of three floors. The ground floor is the Main Entrance, leading into the Langgar Hall in the interior and the Nishan Sahib Plaza is located on the outside. An additional structure has been placed next to the main entrance, which is a Mobile Library Pavilion, designed to invite people from all walks of life to access this annex to read either inside or outside the pavilion based on the various benches provided for comfort.

Entering the Gurdwara via the Main Entrance leads into the Langgar Hall located at the back of the structure, which in turn easily accesses the open plazas and landscape areas on both the left and right of the building. This Entrance is marked by the holiest insignias of the Sikh faith, The Ek Ongkar and the Khanda, on each side as an identifiable entry point into the complex.

The Mobile Library Pavilion located right next to the Khanda Insignia is totally open and accessible to everyone, Sikh and non-Sikh alike, to encourage people to read the various collections of literature available, received either through sponsorship or donation of books and such by the local populace. This then becomes a social and communal initiative as well, designed to bring people together to socialise and to educate.

Once entering the Main Entrance, the internal areas lead to the Langgar Hall at the back of the complex which opens up into public plazas and promenades that have both lush extensive landscaping, views of the surrounding areas and a water feature that located below the first floor where the library is located. The Langgar Hall is open and inviting to take advantage of the delight that the site offers and is fully accessible to everyone whenever they please.

The first floor, characterised by a long and continuous metal envelope of letters derived from the Gurmukhi alphabet, creates a striking golden envelope that covers the whole floor in an unbroken sequence of screens. Literature is arguably best represented by language, and letters come together to create components of a language to convey meaning in communication. What better way to symbolically and physically represent a library facility than to have the entire floor covered in a continuous metal frame of Gurmukhi letters in gold to powerfully and instantly project the idea of knowledge and language, and literature to the visitor of the Gurdwara.

The top floor of the Gurdwara is where, as rightfully so, the Darbar Sahib is located, also covered with a sequence of decorative screens that continuously wrap around the entire floor. These screens, based on patterns of geometry derived from the Gurdwaras of the past, is used to both protect and enhance the appearance of the Darbar Sahib in the complex, and is capped by a square glass cube with a dome on top of the flat roof.

The second principle is based on the idea of the playfulness of light, and specifically on how the skillful manipulation of playing with light within the complex via projections and reflections is used to enhance the concept and appearance of this Gurdwara. In architectural literature, I had once come across a beautifully poetic phrase that brings to attention the seemingly divine quality that light possesses, and that is that …

“Light is God’s eldest daughter,”

What this statement means is that of all of God’s wondrous creations, light, from a poetic and even scientific point of view, was the quite possibly the first thing that came into existence after God so decreed that this universe would come to manifest. There is also an instinctive notion within human beings to connect the phenomena we call “light” to things that are sacred and divine, and to things connected to knowledge and wisdom. Based on this beautifully poetic interpretation of the divinity of light, this Gurdwara is presented in a series of perspectives under the dark night sky as seen in the previous visuals, with its screens highlighted by the gleam and shine reflected by light to create a striking visual composition that connects and conveys the idea of knowledge with illumination, specifically in the first floor where the library is located.

The convergence of these two principles, the literal and symbolic stacking of books and the divinity of light, was used as the primary guiding concepts behind the design of this proposed Gurdwara. The idea of the library incorporated into the overall Gurdwara complex hopes to achieve a harmonious but dynamic interrelated understanding of literature from both the Supreme and the Earthly in hopes that this humble effort can bring about well informed and wholesome human beings who are knowledgeable in the affairs of the spirit and the mind.

Waheguru Bless.

The next article in the Gurdwara Design series will focus on a designing a Gurdwara that is located in the desert of the Middle East, specifically in Dubai as a proposal to incorporate the natural landscape into the structure of the complex to merge both the landscape and the building as one seamless design.

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


An architectural tribute to Bhai Kanhiya (Asia Samachar, 15 May 2017)

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  1. First and foremost, thank you for your interest. Please bear in mind that this design is strictly conceptual and therefore it’s purpose is to showcase possible modern design ideas for our gurdwaras in the 21sr century. As to how the elderly can reach the top floor, lifts to service the gurdwaras interiors can be installed which would allow both the elderly and the disabled to access the floors above in the planning stage.

    Where cost effectiveness is concerned there are many factors to look at before a budget can be proposed. Such as site conditions, building size, material procurement, contractor’s charges etc. Those things are very variable and therefore can’t be confirmed now. If a specific location was given and the size could be determined then a budget can be proposed according to the requirements of the design

    Thank you. Waheguru Bless.

  2. How do the elderly reach the prayer hall on the third floor? How cost effective r ur designs?