Architecture

In Chile, construction of House of Worship reaches important milestone

In Brief: 
  • When completed, the Bahá’í House of Worship in Chile will be the last such temple erected to serve an entire continent.
  • Its innovative design consists of nine translucent elements that rise from the ground, floating over a reflecting pool, to be set in the hills of Peñalolén, Santiago, at the foot of the Andes.

SANTIAGO, Chile — A significant milestone has been reached in the building of the Bahá’í House of Worship here with the signing of contracts essential to its construction.

The innovative design for the Temple consists of nine translucent elements that rise from the ground — giving the impression of floating over a reflecting pool — and meet at a central oculus, 30 meters above.

The Temple is to be built in the hills of Peñalolén, Santiago, at the foot of the Andes. Excavation and grading work for the foundation and plaza, begun in November 2010, has been completed ahead of schedule.

The building’s skeletal framework will support 500 tons of exterior and interior cladding. The outer surface will consist of 3,000 square meters of panels made with an entirely new method of casting glass. Some 2,000 square meters of robotically cut and carved translucent marble will create a luminous interior ceiling.

When completed, the Bahá’í House of Worship in Chile will be the last such temple erected to serve an entire continent. There are seven other Bahá’í Houses of Worship in the world, in Australia, Germany, India, Panama, Samoa, Uganda, and the United States, each designated to serve a continental region.

After 10 months of tendering and negotiation, the contract for the superstructure and cladding was awarded on 16 February to Gartner Steel and Glass GmbH. Based in Germany, the company is well-known for developing and constructing complex three-dimensional structures.

“We have reached a wonderful moment,” said Siamak Hariri of the Canadian firm Hariri Pontarini Architects. “The fulfillment of eight years of research, design development, engineering, the preparation of complete tender documents in both Spanish and English, inventing and casting the glass — all of this alongside finding and purchasing a marvelous site and preparing the necessary permits.”

“We had to prove to ourselves and the fabricators that constructing this building was not only achievable, but that it was achievable under very complex design constraints, budgetary limitations and severe seismic conditions,” said Mr. Hariri.

State-of-the-art computational modeling and analysis had to be used to enhance the resistance of the temple to severe earthquakes.

“The geometry and the curvature make this building very complex, each element acting together with the others,” he said. “Glass and stone are so brittle and the tolerances are so tight. All the joints are recessed which means the system has to be very stiff and completely water-tight. But the foundation has to deal with any rapid movements in the earth.”

Along with the contract for the superstructure and cladding, other important contracts have also recently been signed. The construction of the foundation of the building and all concrete work was awarded on 30 January to Chilean contractor, Fernández Wood Constructora S.A. On 17 February, Paris-based EDM-Projets was signed to provide the interior cladding.

Siamak Hariri attributes the progress made so far to “an excellent team dynamic at play on the project.”

New book and website

In a related development, a new book and website have been launched to meet growing interest in the Temple and what it represents.

The book, Donde Brilla La Luz (“Where the Light Shines”), includes reflections on the impact that the House of Worship is intended to make on the surrounding society. It has been written by Daniel Duhart of Chile, Helen Mirkovitch-Kohm of Costa Rica and Jairo Roldan of Colombia.

“All three of us have a common love for Latin America and its destiny,” said Mr. Duhart, noting that the book reflects on the needs of the continent and how the Bahá’í teachings can contribute towards endeavors in Latin America aimed at building a just and unified society.

Also providing information is a new website in Spanish, Portuguese and English at http://templo.bahai.cl

The site provides facts about the building’s design and construction, offers a contact page and a section about the Bahá’í Faith and its teachings, and answers frequently asked questions about the Temple and the concepts that inspire it.

“There is a growing realization that the construction of this Temple represents more than just an extraordinary building,” said Mr. Duhart. “Parallel to this, there is another construction process going on — of community building, in which increasing numbers of all ages are advancing together on a path of service to humanity.”

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