Bahá’í Temple of South America
Architect: Hariri Pontarini Architects
Owner: The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Chile
Location: Santiago, Chile
Category A: Stellar Design
Set within the Andean foothills, just beyond the metropolis of Santiago, Chile, the Bahá’í Temple of South America is a domed, luminous structure that echoes the rolling topography of the mountains. Its nine monumental glass veils frame an open and accessible worship space where up to 600 visitors can be accommodated. Looking up to the central oculus at the apex of the dome, visitors will experience a mesmerizing transfer of light from the exterior of cast glass to an interior of translucent Portuguese marble.
"This treatment of normative materials like marble and glass with groundbreaking technology and elegant detailing creates a transcendental moment, amplifying the building's purpose." - Jury comment
At sunset, the light captured within the dome shifts from white to silver to ochre and purple. Fourteen years in the making, the South American House of Worship represents the last of the eight continental temples to be completed as part of a remarkable portfolio of landmark sacred architecture commissioned by the Bahá’í Community. The temple was unveiled on its stunning 10-hectare site in mid-October 2016 with a series of press and public events.
The program was deceptively simple—a sacred, circular structure, with nine sides, welcoming and embracing people from all walks of life. It did not come quickly. We had four months, and the first two months were a series of experiments. Then, accidents started to happen as we evolved the form, and eventually, because we were combining the latest technology with these handcrafted models, the idea sprang from an intuition, a feeling…I call it "embodied light" because of this wonderful passage in the Bahá‘í writings describing prayer: “A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him…If his prayer is answered, his very being becomes embodied light." So, I drew this sketch of something with two translucent and light layers, with a structure in between. It was a pure form. We continued to explore the idea of light being captured, embodied, somehow catalyzed within the material structure of the Temple. To create a building alive with light, we invented this new material utilizing cast glass, which takes light and absorbs it. When the Temple receives just a kiss of light, a prayer is answered, and the whole piece of stone comes alive.