The communal spirit that binds us all – Bringing everyone from everywhere together

In this GURDWARA DESIGN column entry, VISHAL J SINGH contemplates incorporating a community centre into a gurdwara premises

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Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh
By Vishal J.Singh  | GURDWARA DESIGN |

Undoubtedly, there is no denying that Sikh/Punjabi communities all over the planet are dynamic cultures. There is energy and vibrancy in the air when large groups of Sikhs/Punjabis meet, where this feel-good energy is easily palpable, and there have been several instances where even non-Sikhs/Punjabis will attest to how true to this is. We all have non-Sikh/Punjabi friends who tell us things like ‘Sikh Weddings Rock!” or the concept of “Langgar” is such a noble act of serving sustenance for the masses, and although we are used to hearing such complimentary things, we still can’t help but feel a sense of pride swelling within us where we hear of such things.

Having felt that swell of pride myself on several occasions when dealing with friends from other communities, I began to contemplate on how community centres are designed to bring people together from all walks of life to experience such communal delight.

Neighbourhoods consists of both commercial and residential zones but other specific urban components such as houses of worship, schools and so forth are weaved into its greater context to accommodate the needs of the local populace as well, and one of those needs are centred on the human need to socialize and gather for various reasons.

Having taken notice of this, I had contemplated on the idea of establishing a design for a Gurdwara where a community centre could be incorporated into its premises. Community centres are essentially made up of a big hall for various activities (such as dinners for weddings, badminton, games, etc) various classrooms for educational purposes, smaller halls that act as studios for either performance or martial arts and so forth.

Having taken three of these essential spaces – the main hall, the studios/classrooms and the sports facilities – as the primary design components for this concept, the design of this proposed Gurdwara combines the idea of prayer with the idea of community on a closer level. The Gurdwara is, and will always serve, as the primary centre for the Sanggat to pray and congregate. However, in its premises we will have a hall, studios and basic sports facilities to cater the to the social needs of the Sanggat themselves or even opened up to the entire neighbourhood should a communal need arise.

As always, please be reminded that this proposed design is only a concept where ideas are being explored on how the evolution of Gurdwara architecture in a modern 21st century context can develop over time to best suit both the contemporary and traditional needs of the Sikh community on a local or even an international level. As of such, this proposal is simply an exercise of the imagination expressed through images to simply indulge in ideas that indulge in both the possible and the whimsical.

Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh

The proposed Gurdwara is divided into three main zones designated for recreation (basketball courts for example – located on the left) for education (classrooms and studios – located on the right) and for gatherings (a multi-purpose hall behind the Nishan Sahib) as seen on the front of the complex upon approaching the premises. The Darbar Sahib is located above the Langgar Hall accessible from the front via a timber bridge for the Sanggat to cross that goes straight into the Langgar Hall itself and subsequently leads to the Darbar Sahib above.

Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh

The front of the complex is directly accessible to members of the general public to use accordingly with the permission of the committee, and these spaces ( basketball courts and the classrooms and studios) conceivably can be used to generate additional revenue for the maintenance of the Gurdwara should the Sanggat agree to the idea, or a form of community service that can remain free of charge. A permeable, semi-open geometric screen provides a notional sense of demarcation between these areas and the Darbar Sahib and the Langgar Hall itself, so as to create a sense organizational hierarchy as to where the prayer areas are and where the common areas are.

Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh

The right side of the complex has areas dedicated to education through the rooms provided for art, music, school programs, performances and so forth, each internally colour coded with bright colours that are shades of the saffron colour connected to Sikh religion and culture. Colours have been proven to stimulate creativity when used in specific environments and in this complex, colours are also used to give certain rooms its own visual identity for people to recognize as they enter the premises.

Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh

The back of the Gurdwara complex where the Langgar Hall and the Darbar Sahib is situated ( on the left of the image above ) is also protected by a series of tall metal screens in white, that establishes a distinct architectural identity for these sacred areas, and provides shading from direct sunlight that could cause the interiors to be uncomfortably warm. The multi-purpose hall ( on the right above ) that serves its own specific agenda of events, is flanked by a semi-open geometric screen as well so that these events that are held here are given a sense of individuality and privacy.

Gurdwara Design: The Communal Spirit That Binds Us All – Design by Vishal J Singh

The multi-purpose hall would have its own areas to allow for events such as weddings lunches and dinners, sports and games, educational seminars, public assemblies and so forth to take place that can be completely opened to anyone who may need them for specific purpose. By allowing this to take place, members of the public are brought together in various functions that could help people to get to know each other better, thus fostering improved social relations with everyone regardless of caste, colour or creed helping in nation-building exercises in general.

Irrevocably, Gurdwaras have always been the heart of all Sikh communities in the world, and this proposal seeks to pay homage and deeply honour that sacred role that Gurdwaras play in the lives of the Sanggat. This concept intends to propose that in the dynamic world of the 21st century that we live in now, there exists other interesting channels that bring people together as well and this proposal seeks to address how best to use those social – centric channels to our advantage for the benefit of our community, both as people of our own identity and the rest of humanity.

By having spaces within the Gurdwara complex dedicated to recreation, education and gatherings for either the Sanggat or the general public, this proposal seeks to cultivate a more robust, interactive form of societal participation from people from all walks of life so that we may all get to know each a little better and in the process, establish a world where people are friendlier and more trusting of each other. It is indeed very heartwarming to see volunteers of the Sikh faith engaged in helping people from other communities in sacred rites such as serving food and drinks during ‘Iftaar’ for example, and this proposal chooses to recognize that kindness and express a method to honour such kindness architecturally through the proposed design.

After all, being human, essentially we are all just one race, and architecture has the power to bring us all together under one roof to recognize that fundamental principle of who we are.

One race. Just one. Waheguru Bless.

The next proposal will center on the idea of building a Gurdwara made predominantly of the various kinds of metal used in construction today, namely, steel, iron, aluminum, bronze and such as celebration of the industrial world we live in

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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2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Veerji Dya Singh,

    Firstly thank you so much for such kind, complimentary words .. they mean the world to me and it gives me the drive to continuously come up with more ideas for my design proposals … so again thank you so much.

    In terms of the design, specifically its appearance, first and foremost i’m a modernist architect, and modernist ideals centre on the idea of building designs that do not copy the appearance of buildings of the past, but seek to understand the principles behind the planning and layout of such buildings, and their relationship to culture and the environment.

    As of such i believe in designs that reflect the times we live in today, and not blindly copy from the past simply because we like how traditional buildings look like. I’m not anti-tradition but I don’t believe in direct copying either because tradition is something we learn from and appreciate, and not simply replicate without understanding why traditional buildings are designed they way they are. In this case, the Minangkabau style is indigenous to the Southeast Region of Asia, specifically in present day Indonesia and Malaysia. Those timber structures are absolutely beautiful to look at but they have a specific religious and cultural genesis which isn’t really relevant to us in the present day.

    Modernist designs centre on the idea of universality, meaning modern building designs tend to be clean, simple and do not use ornamentation in its appearance to avoid a sense of historical reference, not out of disrespect of the past, but to honour it through understanding historic ideas and principles rather than direct copying. A great example of a modernist building in Malaysia is the Parliament located in Kuala Lumpur. Looking at the Malaysian Parliament Building, it truly has an elegant international appeal, and because they are no direct cultural references, it does not belong to any specific one culture but belongs to everyone. It truly is a building for all Malaysians regardless their creed or colour and even after half a century, it still looks modern. And those are principles I admire.

    As for payment issues…I’m sorry vVeerji..cant help you there!
    Thanks again .. God bless!
    Vishaljs

  2. Most admirable thought out concept for a gurdwara. All needs have been considered within. May I suggest that we also consider the outer design.
    We are renowned for our ability to integrate with the cultures around us. In Malaysia may I suggest that if we come up with a design to compliment that multicultural image, perhaps we should consider assimilating a say, Minangkabau style exterior.
    Such a gurdwara would attract not only national pride but also international recognition of a Quom which embraces the local culture yet retains its Sikh roots.
    Besides speaking Malay, eating Nasi Lemak and sometimes even wearing a Malaysian costume under a resplendant Dastar, why not a Malaysian looking exterior for our Gurdwara Sahib in Malaysia?
    Perhaps that should be considered for our National Gurdwara bring built or to be built in Putra Jaya. By the way I paid for membership. I have not had official notification yet!?! 😂

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