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How Chile's Bahá'í Temple Uses High Technology to Create a Spiritual Space

Now nearing completion just outside SantiagoHariri Pontarini Architects' Bahá'í Temple of South America is currently one of the most significant religious construction projects in the world. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Sacred Structure," Guy Horton relates how - despite being in progress for almost a decade already - the design has changed remarkably little from the initial design sketch, using the latest technology to create a spiritual and emotional space.

For the last few years, in the Andean foothills just outside Santiago, Chile, a mysterious orb-like structure has been slowly rising under construction cranes. The new Bahá’i Temple of South America will be the first of its kind on the continent when it opens in 2016. It has been a historic journey for the Bahá’i faith in this part of the world—Bahá’i first arrived in Chile in 1919—and a patient journey for the architects, engineers, and builders who have brought the temple to life through a decade-long process of innovation.

The engineering firms were key to keeping the integrity of the architectural form. Even in the final stages, Gartner Steel and Glass came up with a new approach that eliminated the sub-frame, saving over $850,000. Image Courtesy of Guy Wenborne It's been over a decade since the architects of South America's first Baha'i Temple sketched out its design. “The shape never changed from what it was on the computer in 2003,” says Doron Meinhard, project manager and associate-in-charge of Hariri Pontarini Architects. Image Courtesy of Guy Wenborne © Bahá’í Temple of South America The interior surface of the nine “sails” (above) is marble, the exterior is cast glass developed by artist Jeff Goodman. He took great care, using lab-grade borosilicate to avoid any thermal stress. SGH then put the material through rigorous testing: subjecting it to freeze and thaw cycles, and submerging it fully in water. Then, because the 2,000 panels on each of the sails are all unique, the seismic load on every single one had to be tested. Image Courtesy of Justin Ford

Palacio Las Majadas de Pirque / Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos

  • Architects: Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos
  • Location: Exequiel Fontecilla, Pirque, Pirque, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Teodoro Fernández Larrañaga
  • Collaborators: Christopher Dyer Vicuña
  • Area: 1922.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Felipe Lavín, Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos, Arturo Lyon

© Felipe Lavín Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos © Felipe Lavín © Felipe Lavín

Pigeon Loft / Schmidt Arquitectos Asociados

© Pia Melero © Pia Melero Courtesy of Schmidt Architects Courtesy of Schmidt Architects

House on Todos Los Santos Lake / Apio Arquitectos

  • Architects: Apio Arquitectos
  • Location: Lago Todos Los Santos 10, Puerto Montt, Puerto Montt, X Región, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Angie Chadwick Stuardo
  • Project Area: 120.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photography: Alejandra Valenzuela

© Alejandra Valenzuela © Alejandra Valenzuela © Alejandra Valenzuela © Alejandra Valenzuela

Ismael 312 Apart Hotel / Estudio Larrain

  • Architects: Estudio Larrain
  • Location: Ismael Valdés Vergara 312, Santiago, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Project Architects: Rodrigo Larrain Galvez, Rodrigo Larrain Illanes
  • Project Area: 1502.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma, Courtesy of Estudio Larrain, Rodrigo Larrain Illanes

Courtesy of Estudio Larrain Courtesy of Estudio Larrain Courtesy of Estudio Larrain Courtesy of Estudio Larrain

H House / PAARQ Arquitectos

  • Architects: PAARQ Arquitectos
  • Location: Punta de Lobos, O'Higgins Region, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Patricio Araya Rodriguez
  • Area: 105.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Paula Monroy

© Paula Monroy © Paula Monroy © Paula Monroy © Paula Monroy

Club Mate and Zambó Assaí Offices / República Portátil

  • Architects: República Portátil
  • Location: Franklin, Santiago, Región Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile
  • Project Year: 2015
  • Photographs: Gino Zavala Bianchi.

© Gino Zavala Bianchi. © Gino Zavala Bianchi. © Gino Zavala Bianchi. © Gino Zavala Bianchi.

Cero K / Max-A

  • Architects: Max-A
  • Location: San Carlos, San Carlos, Bío Bío Region, Chile
  • Design Team: Max Noguera, Alejandra Marambio
  • Area: 3500 sqm
  • Proyect Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Erieta Attali

© Erieta Attali © Erieta Attali © Erieta Attali © Erieta Attali

Autogasco Headquarters / Nicolás Maino Gaete

  • Architects: Nicolás Maino Gaete
  • Location: Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Area: 660.0 sqm
  • Photographs: Aryeh Kornfeld, Courtesy of Nicolás Maino Gaete

© Aryeh Kornfeld © Aryeh Kornfeld © Aryeh Kornfeld © Aryeh Kornfeld

Las Nieves Technical Vocational School / WRL Arquitectos

© Pablo Casals-Aguirre
© Pablo Casals-Aguirre
  • Architects: WRL Arquitectos
  • Location: Avenida Concha Y Toro 2188, Puente Alto, Región Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile
  • Project Architects: Francisco León Ross, Alicia Ross Amunategui, Tomás Weisser Mengdehl
  • Project Area: 5800.0 m2
  • Photographs: Pablo Casals-Aguirre

© Pablo Casals-Aguirre  © Pablo Casals-Aguirre  © Pablo Casals-Aguirre  © Pablo Casals-Aguirre

Alto El Golf / Handel Architects

  • Architects: Handel Architects
  • Location: Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Glenn Rescalvo, AIA
  • Project Architect: Maximiliano Noguera
  • Project Manager: Jim Hakes
  • Project Designer: Michael Lin
  • Area: 29000.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Nico Saieh

© Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh

Open Call: Santiago Launches International Competition for "Nueva Alameda Providencia”

The Metropolitan Regional Government of Santiago, Chile has launched a Two Stage International Public Competition for the development of the urban design and engineering of the urban axis Alameda Providencia. This axis is not only the main avenue of the city of Santiago de Chile, but is also considered to be the “heart of the metropolis” and the republic's most representative public space. The 12 km corridor integrates civic, symbolic and economic functions, represented by the highest concentration of retail, business and civic activities of the Metropolitan Region.

Based on the national relevance of this space, this competition not only aims to select the best team of professionals, but also the best comprehensive urban design, public space, landscape and urban mobility proposal, which considers the demands of the inhabitants of the city of Santiago for a better quality of life and the need for revitalized public spaces and public transport improvements. The Master Plan should take into account the surrounding buildings and natural heritage, land uses and existing and future social activities along this metropolitan axis.

The Conceptual Master Plan should consider that Santiago's Metropolitan Transit System is an open system. Therefore, the proposals should be functional for bus services entering or leaving at various points along its 12 kms and/or at its ends; that is, the infrastructure must allow for intermediate points where buses can enter and/or exit, in addition to at the ends. Due to this, bus courtyards are not required, yet spaces for frequency regulation are.

View competition details after the break.

Peñalolen Community Center / Gubbins Arquitectos, Polidura + Talhouk Arquitectos

  • Architects: Gubbins Arquitectos, Polidura + Talhouk Arquitectos
  • Location: Peñalolén, Santiago Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Project Architects: Pedro Gubbins Foxley, Victor Gubbins Browne, Antonio Polidura, Pablo Talhouk
  • Project Area: 2946.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Aryeh Kornfeld, José Miranda, Courtesy of Gubbins Arquitectos

© Aryeh Kornfeld © Aryeh Kornfeld © José Miranda Courtesy of Gubbins Arquitectos

El Coihue Building / Estudio Larrain

  • Architects: Estudio Larrain
  • Location: Alonso de Córdova 3827, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile
  • Project Architects: Rodrigo Larrain Galvez, Rodrigo Larrain Illanes
  • Project Area: 6266.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Guy Wenborne

© Guy Wenborne © Guy Wenborne © Guy Wenborne © Guy Wenborne

Cube House / Irene Escobar Doren

© Cristián Domínguez © Cristián Domínguez © Cristián Domínguez © Cristián Domínguez

Kaukari Urban Park / Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos

Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos Courtesy of Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos