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Case study: Sikh Gurdwara

26. June 2023
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The new Sikh Gurdwara in Barking, London, is a strikingly beautiful building which skilfully combines traditional and modern architecture to create both a place of worship for members of the Sikh faith and an important hub for the wider community.

Project information

Project: New build Gurdwara

Location: Barking, London

Architect: Agenda 21 Architects Studio

Client: Gurdwara Singh Sabha London East

Window system: VELFAC 200

Specified for: Slim frames for maximum daylight • Composite aluminium/timber frame • Contemporary design • Thermal and acoustic performance • Technical support


A minimalist edge to the ornate facades

Designed by architects Agenda 21, every wall of the Gurdwara is clad in intricately carved white marble to emphasise the building’s heritage. In direct contrast, each facade also features VELFAC aluminium/timber triple glazed windows which bring a minimalist edge to the ornate facades while internally delivering a contemporary and welcoming finish. The excellent thermal performance also helped the Gurdwara meet its challenging low-energy targets.

The VELFAC system’s distinctively slim frame was a key reason for its specification, explains Agenda 21 Associate Jose Montero, as it helped to maximise natural daylight throughout the Gurdwara’s interior: ‘Daylight is always essential for the enjoyment of architectural space,’ he says. ‘It engenders a feeling of warmth and wellbeing. In our design for the Gurdwara we have made the most of this precious natural resource. Although the building presents a traditional appearance with its external stone cladding and intricate carvings, we have created an interior which is deliberately airy and luminous, much to the delight of our client and the building’s users. Large expanses of VELFAC glazing illuminate both religious spaces and common areas, providing a visual connection between the interior and external landscaped areas which are simultaneously used during festive occasions,’ he adds.

Having already used VELFAC in earlier projects, Jose knew VELFAC could meet the Gurdwara’s thermal and acoustic targets while also providing a very specific aesthetic finish. ‘The brief was to incorporate traditional carved elements across every facade but we knew this would result in a very heavy cladding system if applied throughout. We therefore sought to counterbalance this perception with thin, lightweight contemporary marble cladding which could also interface well with the VELFAC window units. We also opted for an olive grey finish for the external aluminium VELFAC frame to reflect and echo the veining in the natural marble cladding,’ adds Jose, ‘while the inner wooden window frame is clear lacquered to complement the wooden panelling used throughout the interior.’


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Energy efficient and environmentally concious

The new Gurdwara is highly energy efficient and features environmentally conscious mechanical services, solar panels, and low energy lighting. VELFAC triple glazing delivers impressive low U-values of 0.8KW/m2k which enhance the environmental objective. The triple glazing also provides excellent acoustic insulation, essential for an inner city community building incorporating quiet spaces for worship and contemplation.

In terms of installation, construction presented a number of challenges for both VELFAC technical experts and the VELFAC Approved Installer appointed to fit the windows into the ornately carved facades: ‘A major challenge was coordinating glazing fenestration details with the stonework cladding which was shaped, machined, and manufactured in India to precise patterns, profiles, and dimensions,’ says Jose. ‘The erection of the stonework impacted on the timing and installation of the VELFAC windows. This in turn, informed the sequence of installation of interior finishes, but VELFAC and the Approved Installer provided us with the technical support we needed during the specification and installation phases.’

Formally opened in May 2021, the Barking Gurdwara has quickly become both a much-loved community resource and a benchmark for the design of religious buildings, with the result that it has been shortlisted for the RIBA London Award 2023.


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Topics: Case studies, Design and aesthetics

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