Importance of the building in the territory and in the city
At the heart of this building there is a belief and an aspiration: that even now, in the fractured 21st-century, we can respond to a human yearning to come together, to connect to one another, and to something that moves the spirit. The Temple sits on the edge of Santiago and nestles against the spine of the Andes mountains. It was commissioned by the Bahá‘í House of Justice and is the eighth and final continental temple for the Bahá‘í Faith. But, central to its brief and its design is that it be a place of welcome, community and meaning for everyone.
The Temple is a human place, universally appealing in its form and at one with its landscape. Distilled to its very essence, the Temple is a building that seeks to come alive with light – embodied light. Composed of nine identical, gracefully torqued wings bound to the oculus at the top, creating a weightless movement around a grounded centre, the Temple is light but also rooted and has a sense of permanence. A circular structure with nine sides, nine entrances open, figuratively and symbolically, to everyone.
In contrast to the Temple’s subtlety on the landscape, once inside the building soars along with the spirit of those who enter. The voluminous interior is alive with soft light that filters through the cast glass exterior and translucent marble interior of the wings, bathing visitors in warmth.
The arched lines of the supple wooden benches invite people to come together, not for a congregation, but to congregate; to sit next to one another in quiet contemplation, sharing in the communal act of being. The alcoved mezzanine above allows those seeking solitude to tuck into themselves while not losing connectedness with the community below.
Given the intimacy and delicacy of the Temple, it is easy to overlook the inherent toughness of the structure and engineering required for the building to weather the rugged climate in this earthquake-prone region for 400 years to come. The process of achieving this was quite extraordinary, involving the hands of many; artisans, engineers and craftsmen from Canada, the United States, Europe and Chile, and a team of countless global volunteers. The process, like the building itself, drawing people together in pursuit of a common goal.
Expressing an unwavering belief in inclusion, the Temple has become the embodiment of a human aspiration for commonality within diversity. Since opening in the fall of 2016, the Temple has quickly developed into a major attractor in South America, welcoming over 1.4 million visitors, and sees up to 36,000 people on busy weekends. Amongst these, many Mapuche, the indigenous peoples of Chile, who made the trek to the Temple their first journey away from their village. It holds an important place within the Chilean social landscape, hosting community clubs, youth outreach programs and children’s activities in partnership with the public schools. The Temple is a timeless place where people feel at home, able to hold their beliefs amongst others.
glass, marble, steel, reinforced concrete
The temple’s nine gracefully torqued wings, bound to an oculus at the top, are made of an outer layer of cast-glass panels and an interior layer of translucent marble from Portugal.
The invention of this new material – cast-glass cladding – took four years of experimentation and collaboration with a Canadian glass artisan.
RAIC International Prize Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
The architects resolve a challenging and prescriptive program for a new Baha’i Temple near Santiago with a powerful form that creates a new landmark - a jewel - in a dramatic natural setting. One juror compared the sight of the temple in the distance to a visitor’s first glimpse of Ronchamp, creating a sense of procession and heightened anticipation in the experience of approach and arrival.
The sense of ‘the hand’ is evident in the craft and detailing. The materials and subtle modulation of the building’s surfaces make important and unexpected references to the topography and geology of the surrounding landscape. During the day, the striking form is animated by the variations of light and shade on the building’s softly turning surfaces. At night, it stands like a lantern, softly lit from within.
The combination of the translucent cast glass and marble of the skin with the clear openings that separate the nine ‘petals’ enables a play of light and shade in the interior space that is constantly changing. The triangulated geometry of the skin is revealed both behind the folded marble lining and in the light reflected on its surface.
The result is timeless and inspiring, a building that uses a language of space and light, form and materials, to express an interpretation of Baha’i philosophy and teaching that becomes universally accessible as a shared spiritual and emotional experience.
"Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Awards of Excellence", Canadian Architect 5/2017 [RAIC Awards of Excellence], may 2017, pp. 34-68"Bahá’í Temple of South America", Canadian Architect 5/2017 [RAIC Awards of Excellence], may 2017, pp. 54-55 (34-68)
Francisco Diaz, "In the heights", Canadian Architect 1/2017 [Spiritual Spaces], january 2017, pp. 12-19, cover
"Sacred places", Architectural Record 5/2016, may 2016, pp. 167-186Deborah Snoonian Glenn, "Bahá’í Temple of South America, Santiago, Chile", Architectural Record 5/2016, may 2016, pp. 184-186 (167-186)
Corinne Belier, Barry Bergdoll, Marc Le Coeur, "Structured to capture light", A+U. Architecture and Urbanisme 514, july 2013, pp. 5-135"Bahá’í Temple of South America, Santiago, Chile", A+U. Architecture and Urbanisme 514, july 2013, pp. 52-61 (5-135)
"Bahá’í Temple, Santiago, Chile", Canadian Architect 6/2007, june 2007, pp. 29-30
"Citations: Bahá’í Mother Temple for South America, Santiago, Chile", Architect 1/2007 [54th annual PA awards], january 2007, pp. 76-77
Asamblea Espiritual Nacional de los Bahá’ís de Chile
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Halcrow Yolles EXP Patricio Bertholet M.
Hariri Pontarini Architects
Justin Huang Ford, Michael Boxer, George Simionopoulos, Tiago Masrour Tahirih Viveros, Jin-Yi McMillen, Jaegap Chung, Adriana Balen, Mehrdad Tavakkolian, Donald Peters, Jimmy Farrington, John Cook
Architect of record
Benkal y Larrain Arquitectos
Desarrollo y Construccion del Templo Bahá’í De Sudamerica
Gartner Steel and Glass GmbH [Superstructure and Cladding]