A Sikh Temple

The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Final Degree Project - Distinction


Mimicking the process of sacred behavioural patterns in religious rituals, the Sikh Temple proposes a syncretic model of architecture that merges the poetic with the functional through ornamental formation. Originating in two-dimensional patterns, the temple emerges through volumetric transformations that morph Sikh sacred geometry into a three-dimensional inhabitable space. The existing Sikh temples are of rectangular nature, however, this proposes a new typology in which the ceremonial routines in the temple dictate its geometry, such as that of circumambulation.

Located in the northwest of London, the Sikh temple is envisioned as part of a religious hub, generating pilgrimage to the site. The pendant drops that form the architecture materially express a religious porous transition, moving from the earthly world to the spiritual one, arriving to deeply intimate and enclosed spaces like glades in the forest, protected for prayer.

The atmospheric qualities rise from the convergence of the ornamental and the formless, the natural and the tectonic. The Gurdwara, absent of figurative representation, must rely on the abstraction of Sikh geometries. Consequently, the project digitally generates sacred forms in the process of abstraction, embedding holy geometries in the temple.

At the same time, the project explores the possibilities of inverting the dome, inhabiting its space and reinterpreting its symbolic meaning.​ In religious architecture, the dome is placed over a square base generating a geometric symbolism whereby the dome represents the heavens (and therefore eternity, unity and perfection) and the square represents the earthly. By reconfiguring of this fundamental architectural principle, turning the dome on its head, placing it in the Earth where it emerges into an inhabitable space for prayer, in contrast to an unreachable space of inspiring abstraction. By becoming embedded in the ground, the dome is symbolically and aesthetically reinterpreted, appearing realised as opposed to idealised. This transformation creates a naturalised, fragmented concrete appearance that becomes compressed from above, as opposed to in-bracing it. The dome, though inverted, maintains its encircling symbolic representation, encouraging a re-interpretation of the infinite, holistic and cosmic.

© 2015 by Maria Esteban Casañas