Building Name – Bahá’í House of Worship-Kampala
Location – Kikaya Hill, Kampala, Uganda
Architect – Charles Mason Remey
Year of Start – 1958
Year of End – 1961
- All Bahá’í Houses of Worship, including the Temple of Australia, share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Bahá’í scripture. `Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stipulated that an essential architectural character of a House of Worship is a nine sided circular shape. While all current Bahá’í Houses of Worship have a dome. Bahá’í scripture also states that no pictures, statues or images be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars be incorporated as an architectural feature.
- The architectural firm of Cobb, Powell, and Freeman which designed the Bulange, the administrative center of the former kingdom of Buganda and one of Kampala’s most important buildings adapted the design to local conditions and oversaw construction.
- The design of the Mother Temple of Africa harmonizes closely with the landscape.
- In its profile the Temple resembles the shape of a traditional African hut.
- Its flaring eaves create a circular porch on the lowest exterior level of the building, providing protection from the seasonal extremes of weather chill winds, driving rains, dust, and high heat common to the area.
- The original design had no doors or walls on the veranda level; without these barriers, the distinction between the inside and outside of the Temple would have been blurred, extending the area of sacred space.
- However, the local architects found it necessary to change the design to protect the interior from the elements. The exterior walls of the ground floor of the structure are pierced by doors and by windows patterned with hexagonal units of glass.
- A series of piers supports the steel-reinforced concrete, nine-sided, unribbed dome, which is capped by a graceful lantern.
- Deferring to the need for ventilation during the extreme heat of the African summer, the windows in the upper story are louvered rather than glazed.
- A distinctive feature is the use of color in decorating the House of Worship. On the exterior, green mosaic tiles cover the dome and the eaves. On the interior, the dome is blue, and the walls, glass windows, and decorations are in shades of white, green, and amberâ”colors that “seem to melt into the hues of the sun-drenched fields, hills, clouds, and sky outside.”
- At the time of its construction, the building, at nearly thirty-eight meters (124.7 feet), was the highest structure in East Africa.
- It has a seating capacity of more than four hundred, with over 515 square meters (5,550 square feet) of floor space.
- The functioning of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar was interrupted under the Idi Amin regime, which banned the Baha’i Faith along with twenty-six other religious organizations. Activities ceased on 16 September 1977, but the building remained in Baha’i hands, enabling a few Baha’is to provide basic maintenance and protection during a period of increasing unrest and warfare.
- The National Spiritual Assembly was restored in April 1981. By that time the House of Worship was badly in need of renovation, particularly because rainwater had leaked into the walls and the dome.
- In 1990 to 1991 a crack injection method of waterproofing, economical but largely unknown, was undertaken, resulting in partial improvement.