The Arts

Design for Baha'i temple in South America wins citation

TORONTO, Canada — After months of testing a key computer model for the unique Bahá’í House of Worship to be built in Chile, architects announced in February that fabrication of components for the structure is beginning.

The milestone comes just as the design for the building received a coveted architectural award — a citation from Architect magazine in its annual Progressive Architecture competition. The awards, established in 1954, are among the most prestigious honors for projects that have not yet been built. The award was announced in the January 2007 issue of the publication.

The Bahá’í temple in Chile is one of eight projects from around the world that received an award or citation in the program this year.

“For architects, it’s the award that recognizes designs that go in a new direction,” said Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects of Toronto, the firm that designed the House of Worship and is overseeing its construction. Representatives of the firm traveled to New York for the awards ceremony.

Mr. Hariri describes the building as a “temple of light.” The structure will be created by nine translucent alabaster and cast-glass “wings,” which during the day will allow sunlight to filter through. At night the temple will emit a warm glow from the interior lighting.

The huge segments that will form the sides and dome of the building are being fabricated in Toronto and then will be transported to Chile. It will take two to three years to complete the pieces of the temple that are being fabricated in Canada.

“It’s a little bit unorthodox, but it’s the most cost effective way to do it,” Mr. Hariri said of doing part of the work off-site. Five countries, including Chile, were considered for the fabrication, but the Canadian bid turned out to be the least expensive, he said.

At the actual site in Chile, construction of the foundation is tentatively set to begin next October. Financed entirely by voluntary contributions from Bahá’ís around the world, the cost of the Chile project has been estimated at US$30 million