Threshold of Baba Shah Jamal Shrine, Lahore

Mogheesa Hasnain
Beaconhouse National University, Department of Architecture and Design, Lahore

Project idea

I declare that the project ‘Threshold of Baba Shah Jamal Shrine Lahore’ is my own work carried out during the course of my study and under the supervision of my teacher Asim Raza.
The project entailed to redesign the threshold of the existing shrine of Baba Shah Jamal, a Sufi Saint. The site is found in a residential area and is avoided by the locals as it is an attraction for drug abusers, because of its current congested and hidden design. In Sufism there is a strong concept of a journey from multiplicity of being to unity with God.

Saints are often seen as people of guidance, who would help the traveler along the way, which is why these shrines are frequented by troubled souls. The trees on the site hold a spiritual significance for pilgrims, as they are said to have been grow by the Saint with milk and not water. Every Thursday the ‘Dhamaal’ or Sufi turning takes place at this shrine, attracting a great amount of worshippers. Additionally during the day a free meal is prepared for the less fortunate and served in the same space. The objective was to create a Threshold space for the shrine, which would hold these activities and would do justice to the concept of Sufism.

Project description

The idea expressed through this project is the journey of a Sufi from multiplicity to unity. The trees act as markers throughout the design leading the way, the walls become a companion of the pilgrim. The curved wall gently coaxes the traveler into the space, where the Rosewood tree stands to welcome him.

The initial space is dense in components, implying the multiplicity the seeker finds himself in and has to go overcome. In this area a small shop can be found, from where rose petals and traditional ornaments can be obtained to place at the shrine. Additionally under the shade of a sacred fig the pilgrim can settle to discuss beliefs or to simply gather himself before embarking on the journey.

The same wall that lead him inside the space, now guides towards the main staircase. Every endeavor seems insurmountable at the beginning, an experience reflected in the monumentality of the staircase. The light starts to guide the pilgrim along the way until he finally reaches the shrine. The shrine itself has not been altered and it stands in white marble, pure, in comparison to the concrete the pilgrim had emerged from. It is a custom to not turn your back to the shrine, which is why the student is forced to turn to the right where the light is guiding the way to the space where oil lamps are lightened and placed in hopes that wishes will come true. The scale has increased from the suffocating staircase, mirroring the blessing of the saint that follows the pilgrim as he continues on his journey.

The space where the traveler ends up is essentially the same plane he started out on, however to symbolize the unity spatial elements are scarce apart from the preexisting trees, which are leading to the exit. This space will be the one where the ‘Dhamaal’ will take place, a celebration of the unity achieved by Sufi scholars.

Technical information

The whole structure is in exposed concrete, because of the silence this material brings with it.
The shrine itself and the trees have been left untouched given their significance to the believers of this saint.

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