By Vishal J. Singh | GURDWARA DESIGN |
“It is the timber of poetry that wears most surely, and there is no timber that has not strong roots among the clay and worms,” – John Millington Synge
In South East Asia, and parts of both the Far East and South India, the primary building material that was used to build buildings such as houses, public halls, gazebos and even palaces were constructed almost entirely of wood. The lush and verdant landscapes of such breathtaking paradises on Planet Earth provided plenty of renewable materials for people to exploit and to establish communities through building, and centuries of architectural tradition allowed us to develop both an appreciation of such structures and the skilled artistry to construct such delightful pieces of design.
It is undeniable that walking into a building made of wood, say a village house built near the shores of some tropical Eden, perhaps in Malaysia or Indonesia, exudes an almost enigmatic yet calming effect on the human soul, and we feel inexplicably yet intrinsically and spiritually comfortable in such designed environments.
Taking inspiration from such a beautiful context, (the usage of wood in our buildings and the rich environment of the jungles of South East Asia) — so intimately linked to both the local culture and architecture of such places — the proposal for this Gurdwara celebrates the majesty of the centuries old tradition of building wooden structures but designed for the modern era of our times.
This proposed Gurdwara, made almost entirely of renewable timber, is imagined to be by the base of a mountain somewhere in the tropics by the edge of a jungle. It adopts an open feel to allow for free circulation of both people and wind within its premises to take advantage of the cool fresh air that such places naturally provide.
Although this Gurdwara uses renewable timber extensively in its design, the main support structure that allows for the wood to be part of its overall structure is a series of steel beams, columns and platforms shown in white, that provide a minimally built skeletal frame to allow the rest of the complex to be materialized.
The Timber Gurdwara is elevated above its site, much like a village house. Its ground floor is totally open to allow for a complete freedom of movement for the Sanggat within its premises. The Nishan Sahib Plaza is on an elevated timber deck, as well, that seamlessly connects with the rest of the Gurdwara, and the idea behind its elevated platform is to allow for the earth to be minimally disturbed during construction. The main entrance is marked with a ramp that gently slopes upwards onto the elevated platform to allow for disabled people on wheelchairs but also serves as a directional pathway to anyone visiting the Gurdwara.
The Nishan Sahib Plaza located on the left of the entrance and is designed on the same level as the elevated platform of the ground floor of the Gurdwara. The Darbar Sahib and the office is located above while the Langgar Hall is located behind the main structure and can easily be accessed without any hindrances that divide the interiors of the ground floor.
The Darbar Sahib is located on the first floor, and is seen through the cantilevered timber box-like enclosure accessible by either the main staircase or the secondary one, and is ‘protected’ by an installation of steel frames incorporating a series of multi-shaded vertical timber posts that span the entire exterior of the hall. These vertical timber posts, that naturally project a rich texture of wooden grains and warm colours, act as a giant sun-shading device to shade the interiors while allowing wind to naturally pass its spaces, naturally cooling the area o of the first floor.
The Langgar Hall at the back of the main building carries a similar appearance allowing the entire Gurdwara to look as one cohesive complex, and the incorporation of timber here is also extensively used as part of the overall design of the complex to achieve the same visual and vernacular objective.
The Langgar Hall, is situated behind the main complex where the Darbar Sahib on the first floor is located, and is designed with a series of elevated walkways and platforms as well that lead into the main hall where the Sanggat can perform sewa, and continue to enforce the openness of the Gurdwara’s external and internal spaces.
Here too, the Langgar Hall is protected by a series of vertical timber posts that project a rich, multi shaded visual collection of shades and textures originating from the surface of the timber itself, that both partially protect the privacy of the interiors while allowing wind to pass by unhindered to naturally cool the spaces within. The Langgar Hall and the main building at the back are low rise and project a long, ‘horizontal impression’ mirroring the flat plane of the earth below, much like how a traditional village building was built in the past in such verdant areas, full of magnificent trees and fresh air.
The Timber Gurdwara, has its architectural roots in the design of traditional wooden buildings built in the tropics, but it is built in a contemporary context for the modern era, hence its appearance, construction and aesthetics. The openness of its planned spaces, both externally and internally, allow for a sense of unrestricted movement to flourish for the Sanggat, and such spaces allow for a multitude of creative expressions to take place, where people can gather for whatever purpose they may like.
Such open spaces also allow for future development proposals to take place, so for instance, if a new room or a new hall needs to be built, the structural frame in place already allows for the walls to be built and installed quickly and efficiently, and a suitable enclosure materializes to accommodate a new requirement as and when needed. The timber used here too are sourced from renewable sources, harvested from sustainably managed forests and are therefore eco-friendly and responsible in its employment of the construction of this Gurdwara complex, establishing the complex to be environmentally friendly as well.
Essentially, the Timber Gurdwara seeks to celebrate the honoured long practiced tradition of using wood in architecture but through the lens of a modern design ethos and a contemporary perspective, and from an environmental point of view, a complex that uses renewable sources such as sustainable timber and recyclable steel in its construction is generally considered to be an eco-friendly building, which is very much part of the ‘Green Movement’ sweeping the world currently. Indeed, wood has always been closely connected with the ongoing progress of human civilization, and as it has always been a gift of both material and spiritual value for us in the past, there will always be a place for wood both in our hearts and our architecture well into the future.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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