The Bahá’i House of Worship in Chile – A temple flooded with soft light.
Openness for all as an architectural challenge – “This is a place that is welcoming to all the religions, or if you have no religion,“ said architect Hariri. It has been a special challenge for Siamak Hariri, Canadian architect of Iranian heritage, to translate this openness to all people into the architecture of the temple. Nobody should feel excluded. “So how do you create something new that is all-encompassing and open? A building that can be accessed from all sides, with a spirit of tolerance and transparency. My aim was to convey to the visitor a feeling of being levitated up to the sky when looking to the top of the temple,” said Hariri. Like a flower following the sun, the visitor should follow the light. Hariri was inspired by dappled sunshine beneath a canopy of trees.
Also in the Bahá’i religion, light plays a central role. In contrast to churches, synagogues or mosques, the eight continental Houses of Worship of the Bahá’is are round buildings with light-flooded domes and nine entrances. These nine entrances are a symbolic invitation to the believers of all religions to join in a common prayer and meditation. The religious community has been founded in Iran 200 years ago. This monotheistic religion has more than five million followers all over the world who are committed to a humanitarian vision of social development and cohesiveness.
Organic shape of a curled flower bud with nine glass petals
The architecture recalls the universal and organic shape of a curled bud with nine petals represented by glazed wings or veils. The aim was to create an interplay of contradictions such as stillness and movement, simplicity and complexity, intimacy and monumentality. For the construction of the temple, Hariri has exclusively used traditional materials such as bronze, glass and marble which have been processed with new methods and technologies. As the Bahá’i intended to build an earthquake proof temple that should last 400 years, only material of the highest quality and sophisticated technology were used.
The Bahá’i Temple of South America was designed to act as a drapery of light capturing the light. The light is supposed to penetrate the translucent glass and marble and unveil the steel structure portraying leaf veins making the dome an illuminated tent. At night the building casts a very soft and ‘ethereal’ light against the surrounding landscape.
A sacred building at the foot of the Andes accommodating up to 600 visitors
Surrounded by nine curved water pools and nine gardens, the Bahá’i Temple is built at the foot of the Andes on a 50 hectares area at an altitude of approx. 900m. The 30-meter-high temple in immediate proximity to the metropolis of Santiago de Chile has a diameter of 33 m and is designed to accommodate up to 600 visitors. It is composed of nine geometrically identical wings converging into a light dome made of transparent glass with a Bahá’i symbol at the central oculus of the dome’s apex. Between each of the veils, the building envelope has been closed by glazed facade stripes with a bronze substructure. The temple can be accessed by nine bronze entrance doors with double-curved glass panes at the foot of the veils.
The Bahá’i Temple of South America was designed to act as a drapery of light capturing the light. The light is supposed to penetrate the translucent glass and marble and unveil the steel structure portraying leaf veins making the dome an illuminated tent.
To protect the House of Worship from earth quake impact, it rests on ten seismic bearings that will allow compensating for horizontal movements of up to 600 mm during an earthquake. These seismic isolators are ring-shaped and aligned on a concrete foundation.
Highly complex super-structure consisting of rectangular steel hollow sections and steel nodes.
During planning and design of the building Gartner has optimized the highly complex steel structure of the temple further reducing the steel tonnage. In total, 420 tons of steel have been used – approx. 165 tons for the space frame trusses, 110 tons for primary trusses, and 100 tons for the steel nodes. The customized steel nodes have been homogeneously aligned and the rectangular steel hollow sections have been connected to the mechanically processed steel nodes.
The building is composed of 8,800 individual slimprofile steel members (7,300 steel profile top and bottom chords and 1,500 diagonal members) well as 3,200 steel nodes. In total, 16.800 individual steel trusses as well as 225 support trusses had to be installed. The steel structure is made of main steel tubular trusses, tension rods, bottom chords for the marble interior cladding, and space frame trusses, top cords for the cast glass exterior cladding, as well as the cladding of the columns.
The irregularly shaped framework creates highly individual geometries of the steels nodes leading to different angles and rod lengths. Each of the nine veils is constructed in the same way, however, within the individual veils, every single part is unique.
Primary structure and double-skin space frame
At the headquarters of Gartner in Gundelfingen (Germany) production of the primary structure started with the manufacturing of a circular frame with a diameter of approx. 4 meters to allow for the connection of all the main steel members for the nine veils. This ring is the apex of the dome and accommodates the oculus. The nine main steel columns of the structure have been fixed to the circular truss with a Y-piece. Each main member consists of two hollow sections which are connected to the concrete foundation via brackets. The building rests on 18 steel hollow sections with a length of approx. 26,5 meters. Interior and exterior claddings are installed onto the double-skin space frame made of top and bottom chords.
The semi-nodes have been calculated individually with advanced 3D computer programs. After transferring the data to the CNC machines, the semi-nodes have been processed with flame cutters. Exterior façade with 3,022 sqm of cast glass, interior façade with 2,015 sqm of Portuguese marble For the 3,022 sqm of exterior cast glass façade, a Canadian company has produced translucent cast glass panels melting down several layers of glass fragments to yield a 32-mm thick glass. With this procedure, the original glass fragments remain visible. In Germany, from these cast glass panels with a size a approx. 1.2 x 1 meter, individual glass panels of different sizes have been cut out
with 3D-water-jet cutting machines and conical bore holes have been incorporated.
With button-head anchors, the individual glass panels have subsequently been connected to an aluminium sub-structure which is fixed directly to the steel structure. Since the individual glass panels within each veil are unique in size and shape, a large puzzle of around 600 pieces has been produced for assembly. The exceptionally translucent Portuguese marble for the interior cladding has been fixed according to the same principle. For cladding, 1,500 stone panels and approx. 950 round stone units have been used.
The 4-meter-high alcove glazing at the bottom end of the nine veils is made of multiple bent cast glass panels. The glass has been multiply warm bent in a concrete mold and then given its final shape. In total, 950 bent cast glass units have been installed amounting to a total area of 500 sqm.
The individual steps of the assembly procedure
At the Gundelfingen headquarters of Gartner, the main parts of the steel structure have been pre-assembled to verify fitting accuracy, and then shipped to Santiago. At the construction site, a guyed support tower had to be erected in the centre of the ringshaped foundation. First, the ring trusses have been fixed using two tower cranes. Then the 18 steel hollow sections which had been pre-assembled on site have been connected to the circular truss with the Y-piece. In a third step, these main columns had to be aligned to their correct position. Since the main columns are multiply twisted, assembly is challenging. Only by use of chain blocks these multiply bent components could be placed by the crane in their correct position.
In a forth step, the cross beams were mounted and then, as a fifth step, the space frame was installed starting from the bottom and progressing towards the top. For this procedure, the installers had to climb into the steel structure in order to adjust and fix the large number of connections. In a sixth and seventh step, the stone cladding as well as the cast glass cladding have also been fixed from bottom to top.
The bronze units and the alcove glazing were then installed. Light strips made of laminated toughened glass with sun protection coating close the open space between the new veils. In order to tightly close the building envelope
the glazing joints between the units have finally been sealed with silicone and the doors have been installed.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Spring 2020 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Construction Project Signboard
Owner and Client: The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá´ of Canada, Thornhill, Ontario + The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá´of Chile
Architect: Hariri Pontarini Architects, Toronto, Ontario
Façade Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Los Angeles, California
Steel Construction and Facade: Josef Gartner GmbH, Gundelfingen
Fotos / Photographs: Jose Luis Stephens
Nähere Informationen: www.josef-gartner.de