Steel Sanctuary: A metal gurdwara celebrating industry spirit

Columnist VISHAL J SINGH experiments with steel and iron to build an imaginary Gurdwara, creating a new modern design based on the aesthetics of metal



Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

By Vishal J.Singh

There is something mysteriously profound about metal. 

Ever since first excavated from the earth below using our bare hands, metals, where gold, silver, zinc, copper, bronze and such have come from, has always held a mysterious appeal that has attracted humanity from the onset of civilization. We intrinsically appreciate metal and its various incarnations throughout the world, and traditionally metal has always projected an almost inexplicable sense of perseverance, endurance, strength and even beauty all across the myriad of cultures globally, ever since humanity first started utilizing metal for the advancement of society. 

Steel and iron, in particular, has always held a special place in Sikhi due to its connection to our religion and culture. We wear the “Kada” on our wrist, an iron bangle, as instructed by our Guru, as a part of the 5Ks and as a symbol of memory, to remind us constantly to refrain from bad deeds and to commit only virtuous acts, while its circular form reminds us of the infinite nature of the One True Lord, where there is no beginning and no end to His Existence. 

The phrase “sweet as sugar, strong as steel” too has carried a deep, meaningful significance permeating the various layers of our society, and serves as a powerful idiom that expresses the allure of both steel and iron as a symbolic representation of spirit and strength. 

Indeed, there is something very beautifully profound about steel and iron in our eyes.

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution had also brought these various forms of metal, particularly steel and iron, along with aluminum, zinc, copper and so forth into the realm of architecture, where these metals were being used for the first time to advance construction techniques that had never been used before. Buildings became bigger and taller. Steel and iron allowed greater spans to be built and taller structures to be constructed. As a result, we have the skyscraper, the most iconic form of building in the 21st century. 

Having looked at the advancements made in construction using steel and iron as sophisticated building components, I had wondered on what if a Gurdwara could be built using these versatile and somewhat flexible components to create truly contemporary buildings for our modern age. And so a new concept for a Gurdwara was born, where steel and iron would be experimented with virtually to create a new modern design based on the aesthetics of metal. As usual, this design is purely conceptual only and therefore is meant to only indulge in the whimsical and the playful.

The employment of metal as a method and material of construction, was the basis of this concept for the Metal Gurdwara, where instead of using the conventional system of brick and mortar to build, steel and iron were predominantly used instead for its rapid installation procedure and its lightweight structure. The usage of iron and steel on a grand scale intends to celebrate the modernity of these components in the design of this Gurdwara, while simultaneously celebrating iron and steel as invaluable elements of our religion and culture as well.

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The Metal Gurdwara will be built with mostly with steel and iron as its main structure, and from corrugated steel sheets found from shipping containers as part of its walls. These steel sheets come in variety of size, colour and specifications and are recyclable as well, so they are considered as a sustainable building material and a beneficial to be used. The walls will be supported by slender steel columns and the rest of the structure will have a mix of both steel and iron as its overall super structure.

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The Metal Gurdwara will highlight the usage of steel found in shipping containers as part of the aesthetic of the Gurdwaras’ main appearance. The bright red steel sheets used to cover part of the first floor, consisting of the Darbar Sahib and the offices establishes a vibrant form of visual identification for the Gurdwara complex, and creates a striking aesthetic that celebrates the usage of steel in the look and structure of the building.

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The entrance to the Darbar Sahib and the offices for administration will be accessible through a main aluminum clad staircase located on the right side of the complex and covered by a steel pergola connected to a feature wall made of corrugated red steel sheets found in shipping containers. The ground floor will be an open area that leads to the Nishan Sahib Plaza and the Langgar Hall located above the Darbar Sahib.

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The Langgar Hall will be totally accessible from the front and the back and will be located behind the main entrance to the Darbar Sahib above, next to the main staircase. The two areas will be separated visually, thus creating a distinct division of areas, by a feature wall that is made of corrugated steel sheets, which is the main design feature of the Metal Gurdwara supported by slended white columns.

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The Darbar Sahib, located directly above the Langgar Hall above, will be protected by a sun-shading device in the form of a semi-transparent light steel mesh, which is both functional in shading the hall and providing a modern industrial look to the entire Gurdwara complex. 

Gurdwara Design: A Sanctuary Of Steel – Design by Vishal J Singh

The Langgar Hall will be covered with clear glass panels encompassing the whole area for communal eating while providing uninterrupted views to the outside, and will also have a soothing water feature next to its glass walls to create a pleasant and cool atmosphere around the surrounding areas of the building. The walls covering the Darbar Sahib above will have the have semi-transparent light steel mesh here as well to cover more areas to be shaded from the sun to prevent direct heat gain and excessive light exposure. 

The Metal Gurdwara seeks to celebrate the modern era not only through its dynamic, industrial look and appearance, but through the usage of iron and steel, which are truly modern building materials in its construction. 

In the German language, the term ‘Zeitgeist’ is used as an expression to define the spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time in the various forms of art and culture we practice internationally. In architecture, the contribution in construction made by iron and steel, and other forms of metal, simply cannot be denied, for using both these crucial materials in our dealings has allowed us to build skyscrapers, airports, theme parks and so forth, and so steel and iron truly are very much a part of the ‘Zeitgeist’ of our times. The Metal Gurdwara seeks to be part of the ‘Zeitgest’ ( the spirit of the times ) of our lives in this moment of human history, and its conceptual design will aspire to be a modern icon from now and beyond, where the metallic treasures of our past continue to construct important monuments to our future. 

Waheguru Bless.


The next proposal will center on the idea of building a Gurdwara that incorporates various learning facilities for our youth, conceptualized in a sleek, modern aesthetic coupled with valuable educational amenities.  

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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