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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

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

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.

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

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

New Downtown Santiago Inacap Campus / Estudio Larrain

  • Architects: Estudio Larrain
  • Location: Moneda 1802, Santiago, Región Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile
  • Architects In Charge: Rodrigo Larraín Gálvez, Rodrigo Larraín Illanes
  • Area: 19670.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Rodrigo Larraín Illanes, Guy Wenborne

© Guy Wenborne © Guy Wenborne © Rodrigo Larraín Illanes © Rodrigo Larraín Illanes

Boulevard Ñuñoa Square / PLAN Arquitectos

  • Architects: PLAN Arquitectos
  • Location: Plaza Ñuñoa, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Architects In Charge: Rodrigo Cáceres Moena, Alejandro Vargas Peyreblanque, Alvaro Gonzalez Bastías
  • Structural Engineering: JC Ingenieros
  • Area: 11345.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Pablo Blanco

© Pablo Blanco © Pablo Blanco © Pablo Blanco © Pablo Blanco

SH House / 01ARQ

  • Architects: 01ARQ
  • Location: La Dehesa, Lo Barnechea, Región Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile
  • Principal Architects: Cristian Winckler.Pablo Saric.Felipe Fritz
  • Area: 674.0 sqm
  • Photographs: Aryeh Kornfeld

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

Architects of Invention and Archiplan Propose "Origami Highline" for Santiago

Chilean architects Archiplan and international office Architects of Invention have unveiled their concept design for a new public plaza in Santiago. Prepared as a competition entry, the proposal is a tribute to the late Chilean architect Fernando Castillo Velasco, sited in front of his iconic Tajamar Towers.

Entitled "Origami Highline," the project draws inspiration from the ancient Japanese paper folding craft of origami and takes the form of a sculptural intervention in Balmaceda Park.

Courtesy of Architects of Invention Courtesy of Architects of Invention Courtesy of Architects of Invention Courtesy of Architects of Invention

In Progress: Bahá’í Temple of South America / Hariri Pontarini Architects

  • Architects: Hariri Pontarini Architects
  • Architect In Charge: Siamak Hariri - Hariri Pontarini Architects
  • Local Architect: BL Arquitectos
  • Client: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Chile, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada
  • General Contractor: Desarrollo y Construcción del Templo Bahá'í para Sudamérica Ltda.
  • Area: 1200.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2016
  • Photographs: Courtesy of Bahá’í Temple of South America

Nearly four years after the start of its construction, South America’s first Bahá’í temple is beginning to take shape. Designed by Canadian firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, the temple is being constructed at the foothills of the Andes in Santiago, Chile. The building is comprised of “nine translucent wings, rising directly from the ground, and giving the impression of floating over a large reflecting water pool,” describes the project’s website. Each wing is designed like a leaf, with a steel “main stem” and “secondary veins of steel” supporting its cast glass exterior. During the day, the cast glass will filter sunlight into the temple, while at night the temple’s interior lighting will produce a soft glow on the outside.

The structure’s steel columns are now fully self-supported on its concrete foundation, and the steel frames and interior marble panels of each of the nine wings have been completed. In October, the project reached an important milestone as the installation of the cast glass cladding began on the outside of the wings. 

Courtesy of Bahá’í Temple of South America Courtesy of Bahá’í Temple of South America Courtesy of Bahá’í Temple of South America Courtesy of Bahá’í Temple of South America

Carol Urzua / Lira Arquitectos Asociados

  • Architects: Lira Arquitectos Asociados
  • Location: Santa Rosa 1727, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Raimundo Lira, Marlene Fischer, Diego Arroyo, Carolina Valenzuela
  • Area: 2373.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2008
  • Photographs: Pedro Mutis

© Pedro Mutis   © Pedro Mutis   © Pedro Mutis   © Pedro Mutis

ZX FLUX Adidas Gallery / Arquitectos Asociados.lo

  • Architects: Arquitectos Asociados.lo
  • Location: Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Eduardo Labra B., Diego Ortuzar F.
  • Area: 60.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Francisco Ibañez

© Francisco Ibañez © Francisco Ibañez © Francisco Ibañez © Francisco Ibañez

Resiter Office Building / Raimundo Lira Arquitectos

  • Architects: Raimundo Lira Arquitectos
  • Location: Los Conquistadores 2752, Providencia, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Architects In Charge: Raimundo Lira, Marlene Fischer
  • Partner Architects: Francisco García Huidobro, Carolina Jara, Arturo Saavedra
  • Area: 1455.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Pedro Mutis

© Pedro Mutis © Pedro Mutis © Pedro Mutis © Pedro Mutis

A Home in the City / Romero Silva Arquitectos

  • Architects: Romero Silva Arquitectos
  • Location: Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Diego Romero, Ernesto Silva
  • Area: 230.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Bruno Giliberto

© Bruno Giliberto © Bruno Giliberto © Bruno Giliberto © Bruno Giliberto

Amunategui Building / Alemparte Morelli y Asociados Arquitectos

Courtesy of Alemparte Morelli y Asociados Arquitectos Courtesy of Alemparte Morelli y Asociados Arquitectos Courtesy of Alemparte Morelli y Asociados Arquitectos Courtesy of Alemparte Morelli y Asociados Arquitectos

San Damián Housing Estate / Chauriye Stäger Arquitectos

  • Architects: Chauriye Stäger Arquitectos
  • Location: Camino San Francisco de Asís, Las Condes, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
  • Architect In Charge: Rodrigo Chauriye, Beatriz Stäger
  • Area: 3200.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Midas / Pablo Blanco

© Midas / Pablo Blanco © Midas / Pablo Blanco © Midas / Pablo Blanco © Midas / Pablo Blanco