Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village

The design for this Gurdwara treats the complex not as a single building, but a series of individual structures designed to be well connected with each other and with its open environment so as to mimic the layout of a village.

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Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh
By Vishal J.Singh | GURDWARA DESIGN

The mysteriously gorgeous continent of Africa has always been somewhat of an exotic element in the collective history of mankind. Her dynamic myriad of cultures, her incredible variety of wildlife and her breathtaking range of landscapes have all tantalized the imaginations of people for centuries across the globe. Dotted across the harsh landscapes of the land, traditional warrior villages of close-knit communities could be found that flourished alongside the vibrant wildlife the continent is so well known for, and having this profound relationship with the landscape, both with the flaura and the fauna, had given birth to deep philosophies that celebrated nature and bestowed timeless wisdom for the world to appreciate.

“It takes a village to raise a child” is one such delightful piece of wisdom.

The proverb stated above is a famous literary jewel that can be attributed to African tradition and culture, and it is meant to convey the message that it takes an entire community of people from diverse backgrounds to help cultivate a child’s development and well-being. It states that everyone has a role in helping to provide a safe and nourishing environment for children of the community and although the message, derived from the African proverb maybe cultural in its origin, it is however universal in its application, and perfectly encapsulates the Sikh spirit of “Sewa”, where we are obliged to help all in need to better themselves, which of course includes our young.

Taking this idea that “it takes a village to raise a child”, I thought it would be interesting if a Gurdwara was not architecturally defined as a single building consisting of Darbar Sahib, a Langgar Hall and the Kitchen, a Nishan Sahib Plaza and the relative administrative components, but a “series of structures clustered together manifesting itself as a literal representation of a village and its various components” such as community halls, prayer houses, classrooms etc.

The design idea behind this Gurdwara, imaginatively located in Kenya, is based on the literal idea of what a village consists of, in terms of the general layout, and in terms of open spaces connected through various public-centric activities such classes for learning, open halls for physical activities and so forth. In terms of its appearance, it primarily a design that incorporates timber and stone into its construction, as these natural materials are well identified and celebrated with the ravishing landscapes of the savannas of Africa. All the individual structures that make the Gurdwara complex are well shaded with timber canopies as part of the aesthetics and lends a practical aspect to the design the keep the building cool.

Finally, as a method of creating a cultural connection with its site, various works of African art celebrating the deeply rich and resplendent artistic history of her people have been incorporated into the complex. This creates various points of interest while walking around the area, and celebrates the rich and diverse spectrum of traditional art that Africa offers to the Sanggat.

Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh

The Gurdwara is laid out across the flat landscapes of the savanna, expressing the horizontality of the site and the connection the Gurdwara has with the environment. The entrance is marked in the middle of the complex and leads to the Darbar Sahib on the left and the open multi-functional hall on the right.

Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh

The Darbar Sahib is identified on the left of the entrance through a series of diagonal frames that additionally have louvers that which further shade the building, complemented by timber canopy above. This creates a striking composition for the Darbar Sahib and attracts the Sanggat visually.

Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh

The shaded multi-functional open hall on the right allows for a variety of activities to take place, inviting people everywhere to congregate and socialize in some form of activity. Its openness signifies a sense of invitation, to welcome people into the space and it is connected unhindered to the landscape surrounding the Gurdwara.

Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh

There is a community centre offering classes and consultation for people in need, especially the young, located just right to the open hall. The incorporation of the community centre is in line with the concept of “Sewa”,  where help is given freely to anyone who needs it, and acts as a social hotspot of sorts for the Sanggat and the local population.

Out of Africa – How a Gurdwara acts as a Village: Visuals by Vishal J.Singh

This community centre opens into the landscape and is flanked with various works of African art displayed as murals on the left. It is also a structure that is well shaded with the canopy above. This centre acts as an educational and cultural hub that promotes socializing to help people, both young and old, integrate better with each other and to foster closer relationships within the members of society.

The design for this Gurdwara, as mentioned previously, treats the complex not as a single building, but a series of individual structures designed to be well connected with each other and with its open environment so as to mimic the layout of a village.

Instead of placing all the various components of a Gurdwara complex ( The Darbar Sahib, The Langgar Hall, The Kitchen etc ) in a single location, this proposal scatters those various components across the site, creating a flow of spaces where walking from one area to another allows the Sanggat to enjoy “journeys”  within the Gurdwara and where the Sanggat can visually enjoy the landscapes surrounding the complex. By having components scattered around, various pathways are created, allowing people to bump and mix into each other, promoting spontaneous acts of socializing, and honours the traditional architectural principles of physical village-making exercises of the past, propagating a venerable tradition well into the present and to the future. Waheguru Bless.

The next article will explore the idea of a Gurdwara as an institute of democracy, handling both spiritual affairs and affairs of the people. It will be a complex that combines parliamentary architecture with religious obligations.

Vishal1a

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:

A gurdwara of industrial design (Asia Samachar, 26 Feb 2018)

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)

 

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