Home Do You Know? What was the greatest challenge in designing this Bahai temple?

What was the greatest challenge in designing this Bahai temple?

This Bahai Temple is the last of eight Bahai temples built so far in the world. In late 2002, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Chile announced a competition for the design of the temple, to be built southeast of Santiago and design by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was chosen for the proposed temple. Fabrication of components began in 2007. The construction phase started in November 2010, construction of the cast glass cladding commenced in October 2014, and construction was completed in October 2016. The temple was dedicated on October 13, 2016 and doors opened to the public on October 19, 2016. This temple design posed one of the most complicated challenges for the architects. Do you know what the challenge was?

There are hardly eight Bahai temples in the world, Santiago Bahai temple being the eighth one. Therefore, the architect had an uphill task at hand to ensure that the new temple doesn’t look like earlier ones, otherwise he would have been branded a copycat architect. Siamak’s design ultimately ensured this and this landmark has won several international awards.

Bahai temples world over are open to all, irrespective of their religion – It is open for all or none, principle that’s followed world over. To drive home this message, Bahai temples have nine sides with nine entrances and that’s the basic criteria which the architect had to follow. As the temple was open to people of all religion it shouldn’t look like any church, mosque, synagogue or Hindu temple otherwise it may alienate people of some religions.

So, Siamak decided to use light for its spiritual and design inspiration. Looking up to the central oculus at the apex of the dome, visitors will experience a mesmerizing transfer of light from the exterior of cast glass to an interior of translucent Portuguese marble. At sunset, the light captured within the dome shifts from white to silver to ochre and purple. An investigation into material qualities that embody light resulted in the development of two cladding materials: translucent marble from the Portuguese Estremoz quarries for the interior layer, and cast-glass panels for the exterior.

Translucent marble panels form the interior wall of the Temple. Flat pieces were water-jet cut from slabs to the exact shape defined by the computer model. Each wing of the nine-sided Temple contains over 870 unique pieces of marble. Also, over 30,000 square meters of glass were fired in a bespoke factory of six kilns to produce around 1,100 glass panels of various shapes and sizes, which slot into place to form the exterior of the “wings,” supported by steel frames coursing through the edifice like the veins of a leaf.

Further, the super-structures of the wings are comprised of hundreds of unique, individually engineered 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. According to the architect it is built to last 400 years!

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