The Unfinished Gurdwara – The beauty of things left incomplete

Based on this idea of finding 'perfection in imperfection', meaning to see how things or even objects left unfinished could appear beautiful in its own way, the concept for a design for a modern Gurdwara was born - VISHAL J SINGH

Unfinished Gurdwara: Design by Vishal J Singh

By Vishal J.Singh | GURDWARA DESIGN |

First and foremost, let me start my first article of the year by wishing all our wonderful readers a very Happy New Year. Indeed for many of us, the arrival of the New Year brings about a fresh resolve to accomplish new and exciting things in the coming future, in the hopes of bettering ourselves in the long run. However, being the mere mortals that we are, tainted by the essence of humanity, we occasionally falter behind our own hopes and dreams and our once steely determination to achieve targets we ambitiously set out occasionally remains unresolved and, over time, sadly forgotten.

However, being human, there are times we need not be too hard on ourselves and sometimes the very ones we need to be kind and compassionate to are in fact our very own selves, and realize perhaps that we can always try again and even let certain things remain unfinished.

I am reminded of a wise quote by the sage and poet Kahlil Gibran, in which he said he was told by God to “love your enemies” to which he obeyed and said he would start by loving himself (implying that we are our own worst enemies by being simply too hard on ourselves, and we need to show care and mercy to our own selves before we can be compassionate and merciful to others).

After all, we are, as Agent Smith from The Matrix once said, only human.

Reflecting on the notion that for so many of us, a good deal of our well intentioned new year resolutions remain unfulfilled over the course of the year, I began to contemplate on how occasionally things that are left incomplete or unfinished may not necessarily be bad thing.  A beautiful philosophical concept in Japanese art and poetry comes to mind, referred to as Wabi – Sabi, which loosely translates to finding ‘perfection in imperfection’ in all things you seek and do.

Based on this idea of finding ‘perfection in imperfection’, meaning to see how things or even objects left unfinished could appear beautiful in its own way, the concept for a design for a modern Gurdwara was born, simply entitled as “The Unfinished Gurdwara”.

It is to be noted that the word ‘unfinished’ in this context does not refer to unusable or unfit for human usage or occupancy, but refers to leaving the appearance of building materials as it is and not be superficially covered in anyway, so in this Gurdwara, brick walls are left unpainted, concrete walls are left unplastered and so forth.

As stated ‘The Unfinished Gurdwara’ is a Gurdwara complex that celebrates the idea that things that remain incomplete can be beautiful in its own way. In this Gurdwara, the appearance of the brick walls are left unpainted, as to expose the richness of colour and texture these bricks possess, and the concrete walls too are left unplastered to showcase the rawness of the material and the innate strength concrete projects by design.

Financially too, by leaving these materials as they are uncovered in any way, a good chunk of the construction budget set aside for painting can be saved and therefore this approach in design can provide valuable savings in building costs as well.

Unfinished Gurdwara: Design by Vishal J Singh

The front of the Gurdwara complex, where the main entrance to the Darbar Sahib on the first floor and the Langgar Hall on the ground floor are shown in the image above, are on the left and is covered by exposed bricks of multiple shades of red and decorative screens all around. The Nishan Sahib Plaza is covered with grass with a huge brick wall with both the Ek Ongkar and Khanda emblems incorporated onto its structure, creating a powerful visual marker for the sanggat.

Unfinished Gurdwara: Design by Vishal J Singh

The Darbar Sahib is accessible from the front through an open staircase situated on a pool of water, which can be approached from the main entrance from the right side, where a flat metal roof  is placed above, signifying a protected entrance point. Again all the brick walls are left exposed and the beautiful display of bricks creates a rich visual tapestry of red, maroon and vermilion to enjoy and appreciate.

Unfinished Gurdwara: Design by Vishal J Singh

The Nishan Sahib Plaza, where the Nishan Sahib soars high, is located in front of an adjacent structure to the Darbar Sahib and the Langgar Hall, where the offices are located on the ground floor and where the living quarters to house guests are located on the first floor. This adjacent structure is physically connected to the Darbar Sahib and the Langgar Hall through an elevated covered pedestrian bridge and follows the same look as the rest of the Gurdwara complex.

Unfinished Gurdwara: Design by Vishal J Singh

On the right elevation of the Gurdwara complex where the offices are located on the ground floor, the appearance of the brick walls left exposed continues throughout the structure of the building. Here however, on the first floor where the living quarters are located and where privacy is prioritized, the walls are left as bare concrete with imprinted alternating patters of lines and grooves, again to highlight the beautiful ‘unfinished’ quality of the building. The concrete walls create a powerful ‘fort-like” appearance, keeping the interior rooms secured and private for its guests.

The design strategy for the ‘Unfinished Gurdwara’ seeks to celebrate the beauty of materials left in its raw and unadorned state. Although savings in building costs can be attained through this strategy, one cannot deny that the rich visual delight projected by the striking mosaic of red bricks is truly a beautiful component in construction to showcase, and the concrete walls too project a powerful building element when looked as a uniquely designed singular complex. Indeed, some things could remain better if there were unfinished and incomplete, which even includes buildings, as leaving them as such reminds us human beings that as long as we breathe, we too are incomplete and should always yearn to do better to improve ourselves. And again, to remain incomplete and unfinished as we continuously strive to do better … well, that may not necessarily be such a bad thing.

We are, after all, only human.

Waheguru Bless.

The next Gurdwara design will explore the idea that a Gurdwara can also act as a cultural centre for the sanggat to enjoy and learn from. It will look into ideas of how art, language and music can be taught and propagated for the benefit of the public, especially the young, within a Gurdwara complex.



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.



Democracy by Design – Addressing spirituality and politics (Asia Samachar, 29 Aug 2018)

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  1. Great article. Hope those im MGT will be able to understand and where necessary they will show interest.
    Gir Fateh