Into the Future: Gurdwara that walks

VISHAL J SINGH takes us into the future, imagining an ultra-futuristic gurdwara with its entire complex able to move from one spot to another

By Vishal J. Singh | GURDWARA DESIGN |

The dawn of the third decade of the 21st century is here.

Here we are in January, in the year 2021, still grappling with a worldwide pandemic that has brought so much of the world to a halt. Our lives have been severely disrupted, some more than others, but in one way or another, we’ve all been affected. Looking at the current situation, it is hard to imagine how humanity will finally unshackle itself from this curse of this virus, but despite how depressing the present may seem, there is always a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Looking for the silver lining in the clouds right now is a challenging task undoubtedly, but let us all remember that as followers of the glorious Sikh faith, we must always practice and renew our commitment to the philosophy of ‘Chardi Kala’, meaning of course to always be in high spirits, no matter what challenges that we may face.

No room for despondency, no room for pessimism. That is who we are

A better future may feel like a distant dream at the moment, and as impossible as it may seem, sooner or later it will knock on our front door and show up at the entrance. As Einstein once said “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough,”. Before it does however, it has always been an exciting prospect to playfully imagine what the world will look like years from now.

“Are we finally going to see flying cars? Will there be mega-cities floating in the sky? Will versatile robots make rotia for us in the morning before we leave for work?” Such playful and eccentric propositions to dream of certainly, but human ingenuity and creativity has taken us far in the past. And based on the achievements of that past, there is no reason not to assume that even greater marvels are on their way, and thanks to visionaries like Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clark and so many more who provided inspiration for such dreams, some of them might be here sooner rather than later. 

In architecture, too, the future has always been a tantalizing concept to explore, and back in the 1960s, there was one particular group of forward thinking architects, called Archigram based in the UK, that proposed radical ideas in modern design, such as designing entire cities that could “walk” from one area to another, to help and service the population where it may be needed. Thinking of the future and the radicals who worked at Archigram, had then led me to ponder on how Gurdwaras could be designed decades in to the future and what incredible technological innovations can be incorporated into its structure.

The following design is a purely whimsical attempt to imagine an ultra-futuristic Gurdwara that marries some of the ideas that Archigram proposed, specifically on how a building can “walk” from one locale to another to allow for the entire complex to be mobile to help the Sanggat achieve a particular purpose where it may be necessary. As usual, this is a purely fanciful exercise in ‘architectural day dreaming’, and a hypothetical attempt to predict future building trends all the way in 2050 assuming of course, you and I are still alive 3o years from now.

Imagine if you may, as we look towards a more hopeful and promising future, what astonishing technological innovations can we expect that will truly make our jaws drop in the coming days. These innovations will affect a wide range of industries, and construction too will see its fair share of incredible ideas and advancements that will shape the architecture of the future. Human beings are after all a surprisingly resilient species, and although there is simply no way of knowing for sure what tomorrow will bring, it never hurts to keep our fingers crossed and our spirits high to face the challenges of the future and be triumphant over all adversity.

It this proposal, the most striking feature of this Gurdwara will be its ability to transport itself wherever it may need to be, to service the Sanggat as and how required. The entire complex is built as a series of light-weight slender metal frames joined together that are attached to giant wheels, like the legs on an insect, and will consist of a Darbar Sahib, Langgar Hall and the relevant administration and accommodation quarters.

The Gurdwara projects an ultra-futuristic appearance, which takes inspiration from the aesthetic that modern technology projects, namely a generally clean, white look with some flair added on, angular lines and bold forms, and although it may seem complex, celebrates simplicity and the notion of movement in its overall design.

The Gurdwara will have 2 entrances connected to an elevated main corridor that leads to the Darbar Sahib and the Langgar Hall. The Nishan Sahib is placed at where the main entrance is located, while the secondary entrance allows direct access to the administration and accommodation quarters for quick and convenient access and to allow for the disabled on wheelchairs to enter the complex as well.

The Darbar Sahib (on the left) and the Langgar Hall (on the right) are covered with a series of seamless geometric panels that can open and close to allow for a controlled amount of sunlight to enter its interiors. This is an energy efficient design strategy, and a lightly tinted orange glass roof encapsulates its enclosure and acts as the main roof for the Gurdwara.

Here too, the wheels that allow for mobility for the entire Gurdwara is shown, where the Darbar Sahib (on the left) and the Langgar Hall (on the right) are located. Both these halls are supported by a series of angled walls with red and orange light – based panels and the direction of the wheels of course can be adjusted to any degree to allow for complete 360 degree freedom of vehicular movement.

This proposal, eccentrically referred to as the called “The Walking Gurdwara” is an idea that seeks to transcend the very solid notion that buildings are stationary objects, fixed permanently in one area in the urban landscape, for the rest of its life. The proposal also seeks to explore the possibility that buildings can be designed to move from one area to another to accommodate a variety of functions, such as to escape sudden natural disasters like floods or to service a new segment of the population that may need a new building for a multitude of reasons, including hospitals, schools, hostels and of course, houses of worship.

Ultimately, there really is no telling what will happen in 1 year from now, much less a jump 3o years into an unknowable future. Although we must remain hopeful and do our best to face each day as it arrives, we can certainly, on our way to the middle half of the century, dream, prepare and commit ourselves to a better future, and aided with the gift of Chardi Kala, and with the power of our imagination, and our innate sense of resilience and resourcefulness, we truly can overcome the challenges we are now facing and march to more promising future for all mankind.

And lest we forget, it is after all, who we are.

Stay safe. Waheguru Bless.

The next proposal will imagine designing a Gurdwara built in the highlands to accommodate mini – samelans, workshops and camps to continuously foster a sense of community among Sikh youth.

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.



Bridging The Old And The New (Asia Samachar, 1 Dec 2020)


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