Awards of Excellence 2004 – Bah’ Temple for South America

Santiago, Chile

Hariri Pontarini Architects with Holmes and Amaral Architects

A relatively young, independent world religion built on the tenet of universality, the Bah’ faith does not have a specific architectural style or iconography, and worship is conducted without the leadership of clergy. The aim of the architectural team was to create a design that would be instantly recognizable as a house of worship without referencing a previously established religious style or iconography, and also to design a building that would be welcoming and attractive to people of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures.

Sophisticated digital modelling programs Maya and CATIA were utilized in the design process to achieve the intricately organic form. In response to the client’s request for a nine-sided domed structure with nine entrances, the temple is composed of nine gracefully torqued wings, poised behind a large reflecting pool, set within nine prayer gardens. Space for communal and private meditation and prayer is provided by two distinct spaces: the area under the dome seating 600, and nine intimate light-filled alcoves nestled between the overlapping wings beneath a mezzanine that rings the temple perimeter. In keeping with a basic material palette of stone, recycled glass, bronze, wood and steel to physically and psychologically evoke the timeless quality inherent to traditional places of worship, the wings are composed of translucent alabaster conceived to manipulate the transference of light.

In response to highly seismic site conditions in mountainous Chile, the temple has been designed to sustain minimal to no structural damage in the event of an earthquake. Each of the temple’s nine geometrically identical wings is supported by a 25-metre-high stainless steel space framing system, resulting in a structure that is symmetrical in both mass and structural rigidity to minimize rotational or twisting effects during seismic events.

Monteyne: While the spiritual aims of the building are not clearly articulated, this project represents a rare convergence of forces that seem destined to produce a monument so unique as to become a global landmark, or one of the “wonders of the world.” One can only marvel at the architects’ commitment to originate this form, the energy with which it has been developed, and the power of religious belief in motivating artistic achievement.

Shnier: Somewhere in their submission, the architects take great pains to describe their process and project as a “restrained interplay” of contradictions leading to multiple readings. The process is however, anything but restrained, employing various methods and means of technology to move it towards realization. Likewise, the project is anything but understated or contradictory–it is in fact a spectacularly beautiful and iconic architecture that one has confidence will bear itself out in execution.

Yarinsky: The project is a marvel of form and construction. The thoroughness and rigour of the design process are impressive.

Client: Bah’ International Community

Architect team: Siamak Hariri, Michael Boxer, Jaegap Chung, Justin Ford, Adriana Balen, Mehrdad Tavakkolian, Tiago Masrour, George Simionopoulos, Naomi Kriss, Donald Peters

Structural: Carruthers and Wallace Consulting Engineers

Mechanical: ECE Group

Electrical: ECE Group

Area: 14,600 ft2

Budget: withheld at client’s request

Completion: spring 2008