the bahá’í temple of south america by hariri pontarini architects, employs both translucent stone and the newest glass technology as the means of generating and manifesting both the physiological and spiritual delights of natural light embodied in architecture. born out of an international competition with over 180 entries from 80 countries, the bahá’í temple of south america is a nine-sided structure with nine entrances that symbolically welcome all people from all directions of the earth to join in prayer and meditation. its form and materiality break new ground, drawing on the power of light as inspiration.

hariri pontarini architects conceives bahá’í temple of south america
bahá’í ideas of light and unity manifest in the delicate form and translucent glass and stone skin
image © hariri pontarini architects (also main image)



nine gracefully torqued wings of cast glass and translucent stone billow like sails, projecting a sublime, ethereal luminescence. visually light, the building is structurally strong. situated in a seismic zone, the structure’s innovative engineering accommodates ground movement while flexing under lateral loads. each wing is formed much like a leaf, whose veins stem from a primary steel structure with secondary branches, thinly veiled, supporting an external and internal skin. this steel superstructure, graciously following the curved form, rests on a concrete substructure, which then bears on seismic isolation pads, separating them from the foundation.

hariri pontarini architects conceives bahá’í temple of south america
the design consists of petals enclosing nine entrances welcoming all people for united prayer and meditation
image © hariri pontarini architects



there are approximately 850 individual structural steel members per wing, each a different length, and each requiring a unique nodal connection. the exterior cladding consists of cast glass panels, researched and developed specifically for the project, while the interior is clad with translucent marble. set against the stirring background of the andean mountain range, the new temple is designed to be a crystallizing of light-as-expression, an evanescent structure of translucent marble and glass: a place of pure luminescence.

hariri pontarini architects conceives bahá’í temple of south america
the carefully detailed structural frame is built on a concrete foundation ring
image © hariri pontarini architects



‘it is hoped that the temple’s design will be seen as a restrained interplay of seeming contradictions: movement moving against stillness, the building’s profound rootedness made to seem buoyant, the building reading as a symmetrical structure that seems possessed of a stirring, performative variousness. it is hoped that this sacred building will feel both simple and understated, and also complex enough to accept and hold a rich multiplicity of readings and experiences. the temple is to be highly though subtly ordered, yet capable of dissolving in light. it is to be both monumental and intimate. it is to take its place as a sister to the other temples – and yet find its way into its own gentle and compelling uniqueness.’ — siamak hariri, partner in charge at hariri pontarini architects.

hariri pontarini architects conceives bahá’í temple of south america
main auditorium seen from mezzanine seating
image © hariri pontarini architects

hariri pontarini architects conceives bahá’í temple of south america
(left): the dome signifies unity
(right): interior steel structure acts as a space frame, supporting the gently curved form
images © hariri pontarini architects



douglas martin, speaks about the ‘bahá’í temple of south america’
video courtesy of hariri pontarini architects




project info:


project title: bahá’í temple of south america
client: the national spiritual assembly of the baha’i’s of chile
location: arboretum sur 11,000, peñalolen, santiago, chile
concept design: 2003-2004
schematic design: 2004
design development: 2005-2006
construction documents: 2007-2009
construction: 2010 – projected completion 2016


project team:
partner in charge: siamak hariri
associate in charge: doron meinhard
architect team: michael boxer (associate), justin ford, tiago masrour, tahirih viveros, george simionopoulos, jin-yi mcmillen, jaegap chung, adriana balen, merhdad tavakkolian, naomi kriss, donald peters


local architect: benkal y larrain arquitectos
landscape architect: juan grimm
structural consultants: simpson gumpertz & heger, halcrow yolles, exp, patricio bertholet m.
project management: desarrollo y construccion del templo baha’i para sudamerica ltda.
mechanical, electrical, plumbing, hvac consultants: MMM group, videla & asociados, the ops group
lighting consultant: limari lighting design ltda.


building data:
site area: 9.287 ha.
building footprint: 794 m2
gross floor area: 2438 m2
number of floors: 2 +mezzanine
level 0: mechanical/storage space
level 1: central space
level 2: mezzanine