Building Name – Bahá’í House of Worship-South America
Location – Diagonal Las Torres, Penalolen, Region Metropolitana, Chile
Architect – Siamak Hariri (Hariri Pontarini Architects-Canadian architect)
concept design – 2003-2004
schematic design – 2004
design development – 2005-2006
construction documents – 2007-2009
construction – 2010 – projected completion 2016
- 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.
- Its nine sides and nine entrances symbolically represent the unity of the human race under the one God, irrespective of ethnic and religious background, according to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.
- The Bahá’í Temple of South America is located just outside of Santiago, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
- Previously a barren golf course owned by the elite Grange School in Santiago, the 10-hectare site — which took nine years to find – has been transformed into a space envisioned to be open to all, regardless of background, religion, gender, or social standing.
- Fourteen years in the making, the project represents the last of eight continental temples commissioned by the religious Bahá’í Community – each meant to embody “technological innovation and architectural excellence”.
- The team drew inspiration from varied sources, such as Sufi whirling dancers – who spin in large skirts as a form of physical meditation – Japanese bamboo baskets, and fragments of shattered glass. The “magic of dappled sunshine beneath a canopy of trees” was also an influence.
- The resulting design is a sculptural building composed of nine identical, torqued wings. Inside, the temple contains a light-filled space for prayer and meditation that is topped with a central oculus.
- The superstructure of the wings was built using hundreds of slim-profile steel members and nodal connections.
- Each of the wings rest on concrete rings and columns on elastomeric seismic isolators, so that in the event of an earthquake, the concrete pads slide horizontally to absorb the shock.
- The cladding materials used in the project were the result of “an intensive investigation into the material qualities that capture, express and embody light”.
- The exterior is faced with cast-glass panels that were developed exclusively for this project. For nearly four years, the firm worked in collaboration with artisans at Toronto-based Jeff Goodman Studio to develop the cladding.
- A remarkable 1,129 unique pieces of both flat and curved cast-glass pieces were produced and assembled with meticulous care to create each of the nine wings.
- The interior is sheathed in translucent marble from the Estremoz quarries in Portugal. Flat pieces of stone were produced using a water jet cutter, while curved elements were carved directly from blocks.
- Nine wing-like panels of translucent cast glass subtly spiral to form the temple dome, converging 90 feet above the ground with a clear glass oculus holding a Bahá’í symbol known as “the greatest name”.
- The building is imbued with a wide range of colours throughout the day, while in the evening, it casts a soft golden glow.
- “Between dawn and dusk, the temple’s glass and marble become infused with the wide range of seasonal colours that dance across Santiago’s sky,” the team said. “The light that is filtered to the inside of the building shifts from white to silver to ochre, then blue to purple.”
- The architects noted that the temple’s design was developed through hand sketches, physical models and digital tools.
- The aim was to achieve an interplay of seeming contradictions: stillness and movement, simplicity and complexity, intimacy and monumentality – a solid structure capable of dissolving in light,” they said.