URBAN HEALTH CENTRS AT AMRITSAR
Architect: Sarbjit Singh Bahga, Chandigarh
Coinciding the Tercentenary Celebrations of the birth of Khalsa, the Planning Commission, Government of India, sanctioned an innovative and unique Pilot Project Scheme to improve health services in the holy city of Amritsar. The first in India, this experimental project envisaged provision of two tier health services both at community level and at city level. Under this scheme five numbers of urban health centres have been constructed in the peripheral localities of Amritsar e.g., Mustafabad, Ranjit Avenue, Saketri Bagh, Ghanupur Kale, and Fatehpur., besides a 150-bed central referral hospital. The purpose of these health centres is to provide medical facilities to the not-so-serious patients of the locality, thus restricting their movement within the neighborhood. Only the serious patients would be referred to the central hospital.
As a mark of respect to the Panj Piaras (the five beloved ones of Guru Gobind Singh), the five health centres have been named after them i.e., Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh, who were the first ones to be baptized with Amrit and subsequently the tenth guru asked them to baptize him. The incident marks the beginning of a social movement where the distinction between the guru and his followers was sought to be removed. At the inception of the project, Dr. J.S. Bajaj, the then Member Planning Commission and in-charge-d affairs, emphasized that all the five health centres should be identical an aspect and their design should blend the spirit of traditional Sikh architecture with modernity. Internally the buildings should be as modern and sophisticated, as possible and externally these should reflect the beautiful architectural heritage of the holy city of Amritsar so that they may belong to the place.
True to clients brief, the design of the health centres is a synthesis of two divergent schools of thought vis-à-vis, historical and contemporary architecture. The plan is based on pure geometry and shaped like Swastika -- an ancient symbol of good fortune. The building has been kept single storied as it ensures efficient staffing and management of such a small institution. Each of the four flanges accommodates different functions like outpatient department, diagnostics, operation theatre/delivery wing and wards. The shape of the plan affords good segregation of various departments e.g., OPD and diagnostics are placed near the entrance and wards and OT are completely separated from the heavy rush of patients in the OPD. The nurses station is kept in between two wards for better watch and ward of indoor patients. A simple and straightforward pattern of circulation provides easy and direct access to each department
The building is entered through an imposing portico elegantly lit through a semi spherical fibre-glass dome. The main entrance cum waiting hall too draws subdued and soothing light from pyramidal skylights. Externally, the fenestration is protected from the sun and rain by diminutive verandas. These colonnaded verandas act as double skin walls and help in keeping the interiors cool in hot summers. While detailing out typical bay of the colonnade inspiration has been taken from the traditional Sikh architecture. The overall outcome is thus a pleasant blend of tradition and modernity.