The Bahá’í Temple of South America uses light for its spiritual and design inspiration. Set within the foothills of the Andes bordering the metropolis of Santiago, Chile, it represents the last of eight continental temples commissioned by the Bahá’í Community.
The architectural challenge was to create a design that would be welcoming to people of all faiths and cultures. Inspiration was drawn from a myriad of sources; the magic of dappled sunshine beneath a canopy of trees, the interwoven strands of Japanese bamboo baskets, and the fragmentation of shattered glass. The design was developed through hand sketches, physical models and digital technology. The aim was to achieve an interplay of contradictions: stillness and movement, simplicity and complexity, intimacy and monumentality; a solid structure capable of dissolving in light.
An investigation into material qualities that embody light resulted in the development of two cladding materials: translucent marble from the Portuguese Estremoz quarries for the interior layer, and cast-glass panels for the exterior. A remarkable 1129 unique pieces of both flat and curved cast-glass pieces were developed, produced and assembled to create each of the nine identical, gracefully torqued wings. The super structure is comprised of hundreds of individually engineered steel members and nodal connections.
Between dawn and dusk the Temple becomes infused with the wide range of seasonal colours that dance across Santiago’s sky. At night, the materials allow for an inversion of light, whereby the Temple, lit from within, casts a soft glow against the Andean mountains. Each of the Bahá’í Temples serve as centres of worship as well as expressions of technological and architectural excellence. The Temple is more than just a story of complex design, innovation, and construction; it is the embodiment of a community’s aspirations to create a place for contemplation, mediation, and prayer for future generations.