In a recent TED Talk, architect Siamak Hariri takes the audience inside his design process for the Bahá'í Temple of South America. Responding to an open call in 2003 to design the last of the faith's continental temples in Santiago, Chile, Hariri recalls a moment as a student at Yale when he learned about the transcendent power of architecture, a moment he tried to recreate in the twelve-year project. Because the Bahá'í faith lacks any specific, predetermined architectural style, Hariri was left to determine what elements of a structure can convey a sense of the sacred. In addition to the nine-sided radial figure (in the Bahá'í faith the number 9 symbolizes completeness and perfection) the architect chose shapes and materials that allow light to emanate from the walls of the temple. Hariri explains how the drape-like, luminescent sails converge and create movement from the sunlight. The entire project is built in perfect proportions that harken back to ancient Roman conceptions of a sacred geometry that comes from nature, and is a lesson in how to build a welcoming, human spiritual space.
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