By Vishal J. Singh
For centuries, almost all buildings were built essentially of only two primary natural materials. They were mostly stone and timber in Asia, Africa and the Americas. In the West, as well, alongside with a primitive but sophisticated kind of concrete that was used to build ancient structures like stadiums and aqueducts in parts of Europe, specifically under the far reaching umbrella of the Roman Empire. Having such a limited palette of materials to build with meant that architecturally speaking, building design and construction were restricted in certain ways in height and size but even then, many imposing and magnificent structures were still built and seen today.
When the Industrial Revolution took place in Europe, subsequently in the 20th century, new technologies and new materials were also produced that were birthed from the ingenuity of engineers and entrepreneurs, as a result of the frenzy of design innovation and developments in machinery at the time. Naturally, architects too began to take notice of these new materials that could be built in abundance at cost effective prices and decided to experiment with these new materials for the building of their projects
The primary industry-based materials that were produced at the time were steel, glass, reinforced concrete and brick, and together these materials were credited for revolutionizing architecture on an industrial scale. They also heralded the beginning of the usage of modern materials in our cities and the development of new types of buildings such as factories, airports and skyscrapers, which have become international icons and symbols of our age on a global scale.
With almost all our Gurdwaras, the inspiration for their architecture comes from traditional sources as such as our history and our culture, and hence we see their influence in the way our Gurdwaras are designed.
However, wouldn’t it be interesting to design a Gurdwara that celebrates not only the past, but one that celebrates the modern age as well, expressed with the usage of modern materials that symbolize our contemporary identity in the world today? And so this idea to celebrate the present age through the usage of modern materials — primarily, steel, glass, concrete and brick left in its unadorned state — were the inspiration behind the proposal of this Gurdwara. The resulting design visually expresses all the materials used to build the building in its most visible manner.
The front of the Gurdwara (see Photo 02, above) shows exposed concrete walls and exposed brick walls as the main visual and building components of the complex. It is designed to use these materials as both structural elements for the floor and the walls and creates a striking visual feature left unadorned and exposed. Walking through the corridor, the Darbar Sahib and the administrative and management department is located on the left side of the complex and the Langgar Hall and the kitchen is located on the right side of the complex.
The main entrance to the Gurdwara (Photo 03) is through a semi – enclosed concrete entrance corridor, supported by slender steel columns and flanked by hollow concrete blocks that allow for ventilation and light to permeate through. The floor is made of steel grates slightly elevated from the floor and the rest of the pavement on both sides of the entrance corridor are finished with raw bricks.
The main entrance leads to the Langgar Hall (See Photo 04) on the right side of the Gurdwara both on the ground and the first floor, and has a metal deck roof supported by black metal pillars that surround the entire structure that makes up both floors of the Langgar Hall and the Kitchen.
The Darbar Sahib is on the first floor of the left side of the complex (See Photo 05) and is identified by a metal wall that incorporates both blue and orange miniature triangular windows, creating a unique feature that highlights the presence of the hall, supported by exposed brick walls below. The interplay of orange and blue tinted glass represents a symbolic reference to Sikh religion and culture, which is best appreciated from the interiors of the Darbar Sahib upon entering the hall.
The Darbar Sahib at the back of the Gurdwara complex (See Photo 06) is similarly designed and next to the Darbar Sahib is the Nishan Sahib Plaza, marked by the perimeter of a boundary wall established by hollow concrete blocks, which leads to an open green area.
The proposed design of this Gurdwara celebrates the materials used to build its structure, instead of plastering and painting its walls and floors and covering up the rich, naturally occurring myriad of colours, patterns and textures these materials innately possess, that usually happens to buildings once they’re complete. This approach in architectural design, where materials are left exposed because they are considered naturally beautiful as it is and don’t require any form of plastering or painting is called “Honesty of Materials” ,where “honest” means to be used as it is without superficial or cosmetic alterations. This approach often results in a visually delightful and interesting building, and even from a financial point of view is more cost effective to build, as money to superficially coat the building with paint is not carried out and therefore results in savings in the construction budget, which is always a primary concern in any building commission resulting in a design for a Gurdwara that both pleases the eyes and the wallets of the Sanggat.
The next proposal will center on the idea of building a Gurdwara somewhere on the African continent, where colours and patterns celebrating artistic and cultural treasures will be explored and incorporated as a concept into the structure of the design.
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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FROM THE SAME AUTHOR:
Serenity in snow and stone – A Gurdwara in Scandinavia (Asia Samachar, 1 Jan 2018)
A gurdwara carved by Sahara winds (Asia Samachar, 5 Dec 2017)
A Gurdwara Of Light For Spirit And Mind (Asia Samachar, 1 Aug 2017)
An architectural tribute to Bhai Kanhiya (Asia Samachar, 15 May 2017)