The new cultural centre is located in the capital city of the Punjab state and is situated on a 75-acre site overlooking the town. Divided into two sections that straddle a ravine, the memorial is joined by a 540-ft long pedestrian bridge over a network of reflecting pools. The western side, which is connected directly to the town, features exhibition galleries, a two-level library centered around a grand reading room that overlooks the water gardens, a facility for storing rare archival materials, and a 400-seat auditorium. The eastern side houses permanent exhibitions presenting Sikh history, religion, and culture. Rising from the cliffs below, the building is clad with locally-sourced sandstone and evokes the fortress cities of Rajasthan, Gwalior, and Punjab.
The galleries are arranged in groups of five and reference the Five Virtues of Sikh religion. Themes such as the earth and sky, mass and lightness, and depth and ascension are represented in the museum’s sandstone towers and reflective, sweeping roofs. These dramatic peaked roofs, which are clad in stainless steel, reflect the sky and direct light towards the town and are inspired by the nearby Himalayan mountains. The roofs were also designed in counterpoint to the rich tradition of gold domes that crown sacred Sikh buildings such as the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Safdie began designing the museum back in 1997 and finally saw his efforts come to fruition today at the inauguration, when it was dedicated to the nation by Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, the Honorable Chief Minister of Punjab.
Images ©Safdie Architects