picture: Baha’i World news service
Glass and architecture go hand in hand. The built environment is gearing more and more toward the light as every leaf on a tree would gear toward the sun. There are many iconic places for the glass and architecture lovers−Barcelona with the whimsical Gaudi to name just one. A new place has been added to my list of amazing sites, which celebrates our connection with nature and light. The Bahá‘i temple in Santiago, Chile. Plus, the glass parts has been created by Jeff Goodman studio… one more reason to put it on my bucket list.
The Bahá‘i temple, designed by Canadian firm Hariri Potarini Architects, alights on the precise border between the city and the astonishing landscape of the mountains, with a privileged view towards the metropolis below. The impressive structure resembles a glorious flower, its translucent glass petals contrasting with the mountains and merging with the cloudy sky. After experiencing the place, it’s hard to think of this temple anywhere else in Santiago. The Bahá‘i faith, with its friendly nature, has built its South American home in an equally welcoming district.
In plan, the building is a 30-meter-diameter circle, its perimeter divided into 9 bays. At the ground floor, each of these alcoves contains an entryway framed by a stone column and a curved window. As the biggest, and therefore most inclusive, one digit number, nine is sacred to the Bahá‘i. The nine entries therefore symbolize the accessible nature of the faith. Although the design is driven by the principle of non-hierarchy, an exterior stair is aligned with one of the entries, and from it begins a curving aisle that divides the plan roughly in half, providing access to 389 seats in arches. Next to this main access, a spiralling feature stair leads to the mezzanine, which run along the perimeter of the circle, doubling as both a balcony overlooking the ground floor as well as a place where visitors may sit on built-in benches and meditate under the 30-metre-high dome.
In order to deal with Chile’s frequent earthquakes, the temple’s foundations were built over seismic isolators−a system of stainless steel and Teflon discs, developed by Chris Andrews from Halcrows Yolles (now CH2M) in collaboration with engineers at the University of Toronto and the Catholic University of Chile. The isolators absorb the earth’s movement and allow the building to slowly slide and rise during an earthquake. « It’s like when you are on a boat, » explains lead architect Siamak Hariri, FRAIC. This innovative system−the latest technology for a temple built to last 400 years−allows the structure to function more or less independently from the ground slab up.
The temple’s most impressive feature, of course, is its floral shape, composed of nine ascending “petals ». As they rise, each petal narrows, finally meeting at the top, where the dome is sealed with an oculus. Transparent glass separates the petals, allowing a milky pattern of natural light to illuminate the temple.
The interior of the petals is clad with translucent Portuguese marble. Their exterior is made from a material specially devised for the project: a 32-millimetre-thick cast glass, moulded into both flat and curved surfaces, developed in Canada with Jeff Goodman Studio. Each petal comprises some 1129 individual pieces of cast glass−86 percent flat for the main surfaces and 14 percent curved for the edges−mounted on a steel armature developed by the structural engineering team and optimized by Germany’s Gartner Steel.
To create the fabrication templates for the segments, project architect Justin Huang Ford spent a week at Frank Gehry’s studio in Los Angeles learning to use Dessault architectural works including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. This technology allowed for the geometric resolution of the surfaces and optimization of the costly materials from which they are made, producing the exact form of each of the 10161 cast glass pieces and 8001 marble pieces that make up the petals. This precision results in a building that looks smooth and seamless at first glance−but up close, the geometric divisions are visible, and are exactly the same in every petal. The repetition of a single element in a circular pattern creates an « inverted tulip, » according to Claudio Orrego, intendant of Santiago Metropolitan Region.
To view the whole article in the Canadian Architect Magazine