Shelters of Concrete

Undoubtedly, the appeal of unrefined, exposed concrete in its raw and brutal form can be initially difficult for people to appreciate at first, says Gurdwara Design columnist VISHAL J SINGH

Shelters of Concrete: Gurdwara Design by Vishal J Singh
By Vishal J.Singh  | GURDWARA DESIGN |

Concrete is a remarkable material.

Although we think that concrete is a relatively modern material, throughout the ages in the ancient world from Egypt to China, concrete was already used to build monumental jaw-dropping structures such as temples, stadiums, walls, cathedrals, aqueducts and so forth that impressively still stand till today, centuries after it was completed, testifying to the ingenuity of engineers back then. And although the Ancient Romans weren’t the first to create concrete, they were first to use this material extensively in their buildings and infrastructure resulting in magnificent buildings that can be still be gazed at today. Indeed, concrete has had a long relationship with humanity, as evident from the thousands of structures built all over the world through the centuries from one corner of the globe to another.

Concrete itself basically is concocted from 4 basic ‘ingredients’ which consist of cement (the bonding agent that holds it all together), water (the mixing agent), fine aggregates (such as sand and gravel) and coarse aggregates (such as stones and pebbles). When mixed together, they harden over time and form solid shapes. The forms then go on to become the skeletal frame or ‘envelope’ of a structure or a building.

It has been noted that architects, particularly modern architects, have arguably, always had an affection of sorts for concrete, due to its versatility, plasticity and even its raw, unrefined appearance. Concrete can be made to have a smooth, light shade in its veneer, or made to have a dark, rough texture to give a more brutish, coarse look, depending on the aesthetic requirements of the design, although the general public may not have a similar liking for its unfinished appearance.

Like it or hate it, concrete is here to stay.

Having studied modern architecture, I too find myself having an understated appreciation for concrete as a building material, which can be left unfurnished once a building is complete, depending on the texture and colour of the concrete itself. And so for the next conceptual design for a modern gurdwara, concrete was the main choice of material that was used to imagine its form and appearance as presented in the following visuals. As always, these visuals are purely conceptual and are simply the result of my mind having a little bit of fun with the possibility of designing a concrete gurdwara and experimenting with this ubiquitous building material.

The Concrete Gurdwara consists of the usual main spaces that constitute a gurdwara complex, typically an entrance into the Langgar Hall of the ground floor that leads to the Kitchen as well, and the Darbar Sahib located on the first floor. The outside has a single storey block that houses the administration block and the Nishan Sahib Plaza is located in front of the said administration block.  The arrangement of spaces is a relatively standard design, but in this conceptual proposal, the focus is not on how the spaces are arranged but on the extensive usage of concrete that makes up the entire complex giving it a rough, hard and textured look.

The façade is most clearly established by the presence of unevenly shaded concrete vent blocks that are built in front of the Darbar Sahib on the first floor that facilitate air flow, and act as a unique visual feature for the entire Gurdwara. Both sides of the Darbar Sahib have walls that seem to ‘float’ above the ground floor that provide protection from the elements for the structure behind them, and are, of themselves, built of exposed concrete as well.

The entrance is located on the left side of the Gurdwara, encased in glass walls to shelter the entrance and staircases going up to the Darbar Sahib. In between the main block where the Darbar Sahib, the Langgar Hall and the Kitchen is located and the Administration block where the offices are located is a free and open corridor, covered by a series of metal louvres above and marked with frames in black. This corridor allows for an unhindered flow of people to walk from once place to another, and to allow natural ventilation to freely pass its passages to help naturally cool the environment within the complex. The Nishan Sahib Plaza is defined by a group of numerous square concrete slabs on the grass that demarcate the area for assembly for the Sanggat when the need arises.

The right side of the Gurdwara where the Administration Block is located, is protected by a series of white metal screens that provide shade to the buildings exterior.  The Darbar Sahib and Langgar Hall are next to the Administration block and connected with an open corridor, covered by a series of metal louvers above.

The left side of the Gurdwara is where an additional block is located, and this block houses private accommodation for members of the Sanggat should they need rooms for personal reasons. Just like the rest of the Gurdwara complex, this block meant for accommodation is made of exposed concrete in line with everything else, and incorporates a series of metal screens on the ground floor to create a sense of external demarcation. The grass here is also partially covered by the laying of square concrete slabs from where the Nishan Sahib is, so as to create a continuous avenue for walking from one side of the Gurdwara complex to the other on the opposite end.

The design for this Gurdwara celebrates the widespread usage of concrete in the modern era that we live in, and highlights the inherent show of ‘strength’ and solidity that concrete visually and structurally projects in architecture. It pays homage to the versatility of this material that starts out as a malleable clay-like component in our hands that eventually solidifies into something much stronger over time to create powerful monolithic buildings that are commanding in its presence, especially in the past 100 years or so.

Undoubtedly, the appeal of unrefined, exposed concrete in its raw and brutal form can be initially difficult for people to appreciate at first, but like so many good things, there is usually an allowance for some time to pass in letting people appreciate the raw appeal of concrete, both as a low-maintenance, low-cost building material and as an unusually interesting aesthetic component in modern architecture.  As seen, concrete has been with us for a long time, and will undoubtedly remain with us for a long time as well.

Waheguru Bless.

 This is the last article in 2019. The next proposal design in 2020 will center on the idea of building a Gurdwara that vividly expresses its structure as its primary design feature and concept, creating a striking ‘marriage of ideas and form’ between architecture and engineering.


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.



Science and Spirituality (Asia Samachar, 5 Dec 2019)

Steel Sanctuary: A metal gurdwara celebrating industry spirit (Asia Samachar, 23 Sept 2019)


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  1. Another innovative design. Congrats.
    All past designs have been from only this one architect.
    Other Sikh architects should come up with their designs.
    Sanggat should comment on and compare provided designs as comments are a form of feedback which can contribute to new innovative designs.
    Gur Fateh