Serenity in snow and stone – A Gurdwara in Scandinavia

Aspiring architect VISHAL J SINGH imagines a gurdwara in the gorgeous Scandinavian region

Gurdwara Design: Serenity in snow and stone – A Gurdwara in Scandinavia – By Vishal Singh

By Vishal J. Singh

And so 2018 is finally here.

The world is still celebrating the festive season leading into the beginning of a new year, and in light of all this, undoubtedly still relishing the well-deserved holidays everyone is presently enjoying. Of course in some parts of the world, particularly in the West, the holiday season extends into cultural celebrations as well, as people wish each other seasons’ greetings, hoping for goodwill on earth and peace to all men (and women, too, of course) in the wishes that the coming year will be joyful and prosperous for everyone.

Inspired by the awesome breathtaking landscapes where such popular celebrations are experienced, the pristine mountainscapes of Northern Europe in particular comes to mind, and I began to wonder what a contemporary Gurdwara placed in such a surreal environment could look like, influenced in planning and aesthetics, by both snow and stone. And so I envision a design for a Gurdwara in the gorgeous Scandinavian region, where countries such as Norway, Finland and Estonia are located, and simply let my imagination take a whimsical journey to that part of the globe to propose a design.

In the northern part of Europe during winter, where this Gurdwara is proposed, the most bountiful and abundant natural element found here is obviously the snow itself. Seamless blankets of thick white snow cover the unforgiving stony landscape of these mountains, and creates a dreamlike quality to the earth for us to savor. Traditionally, the architecture of places like this responds to the site by creating well – enclosed spaces with glass panels and through the employment of thick stone walls to trap as much heat as possible, and so this proposed design uses the principles of storing heat as its primary design strategy [See Photo 2].

PHOTO 3: Gurdwara Design: Serenity in snow and stone – A Gurdwara in Scandinavia – By Vishal Singh

The design of this Gurdwara takes inspiration [See Photo 3] from its environment, where the jagged silhouettes of the mountains behind are represented in the striking triangular walls supporting the structures from the side, where the stone found in the landscape becomes the primary building material, where glass is used expansively to allow generous amounts of vivid sunlight to permeate the interiors naturally, and where timber was used as part of the floors, doors and windows reminiscent of the forests surrounding this locale. This particular philosophy in design is called “Organic Architecture”, and it refers to taking inspiration for a design based on the myriad of natural elements found here.

The entrance of the Gurdwara has a long glass corridor, supported by a light steel frame gently touching the earth below to create as little impact to the ground below as possible. The ceilings and the floors consist of geometric platforms that allow light from the top to enter and snow from the bottom to be seen. The glass traps the heat for thermal warmth, but also allows seamless views of the surrounding to be appreciated as much as possible. The glass corridor leads into 2 areas of the Gurdwara, which are the Semi-Open Plaza on the left side, where a ramp leading to the Darbar Sahib is located, and the Langgar Hall on the right side [See Photo 4].

The glass corridor firstly extends into an elevated Darbar Sahib which itself is completely covered in glass to create a direct visual connection with the panorama of the surrounding mountains, allowing unhindered access to the awe-inspiring views of the landscape at all time. It is elevated with a plaza for public gatherings below, also giving the impression that Darbar Sahib appears to be hovering above the snowcapped earth, lending an almost “magical” quality to its presence. The front of the plaza also has perforated steel platforms with geometric patterns raised above the snowy landscapes to allow people to walk as needed, but to allow the snow to pass through without accumulating on the walkaways surrounding the plaza and the ramp leading above to the Darbar Sahib  [See Photo 5].

Gurdwara designs by Vishal Singh

The glass corridor also leads into the Langgar Hall on the right, which is basically a simple box structure covered with glass all around, also to allow for views of the surrounding nature to be fully appreciated at any given time. Located outside the Langgar Hall are the similar steel platforms with geometric patterns raised above the snowy landscapes to allow people to walk as needed and as gathering spaces when the weather permits and the warmth of the sun can be better appreciated [See Photo 6].

The design for this contemporary Gurdwara is meant to create a strong meaningful connection with its landscape, where the connections are not only visually expressed through the usage of glass, capturing the breathtaking views captured all around, but are also expressed through materiality and texture as well, through the employment of raw stone and rough timber.

The glass plays a crucial role of letting pristine sunlight into the interiors and capturing exquisite views of the exteriors, establishing a powerful visual relationship between building and environment, and the stone and timber used are an extension of form from the very landscape it is based in. Indeed the purpose of the design was to create a “dialogue” (referring to connection) with the landscape, and it is hoped that this “dialogue” can better help the Sanggat appreciate the majestic environment in which this particular proposal is located.

Waheguru Bless, and of course, a Happy New Year.


Vishal J.Singh, an aspiring architect, holds a Bachelor of Architecture Degree from Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur and enjoys engaging in architecture and its theories as his first love.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


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  1. Dear, Pritpal Singh Gill,

    SSA to you to ji! And happy new year as well … firstly thanks for reading the article and its great to find a fellow modernist here! And you worked for IM Pei? He’s one of my heroes!
    I would absolutely love to get in touch with you .. may i have your contact please?

    mine are the following

    email :
    website :
    HP : +6012 3912784

    Thanks again!

  2. Dear Vishal,


    I am a registered Architect in Singapore and have been managing Real Estate companies I Thailand for last 25 years. I am a Modenist and worked for I M Pei for six years. Only Sikh Temple with a contemporary design I Singapore is the Central Sikh Temple on Tower Road. I have travelled globally and find particularly in US and Canada the architectural language is the same: no innovation. I appreciate your efforts and hope some Gurdwara committee will offer you to express the future whilst adhering to our heritage. Sikhism is for all.

    The Muar Gurdwara was , I learnt , designer by a British Architect and built by the community. . It has a wonderful feeling.

    Contact me for a dialogue