The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) have announced the Baha’i Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile, as the winner of the 2019 RAIC International Prize. The architects are Hariri Pontarini Architects who are a full-service Canadian firm dedicated to producing work of lasting value. Siamak Hariri and David Pontarini founded the Toronto, Canada, office in 1994 motivated by a shared commitment to design quality and today their 130-person practice offers its clients in-depth partner involvement through all stages of design and the breadth of building experience and technical expertise to rigorously oversee construction.
The winner was revealed on 25 October, 2019, during an awards ceremony and gala at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto, attended by over 260 members of the Canadian and international architecture community.
The Baha’i Temple of South America is designed to be a place of welcome and meaning for everyone. Its design aspires to evoke the feeling of commonality within diversity, and it has attracted over 1.4 million visitors since opening in 2016.
The jury said: “The result is timeless and inspiring, a building that uses the language of space and light, form and materials, to express an interpretation of Baha’i philosophy and teaching that becomes universally accessible as a shared spiritual and emotional experience.”
The prize consists of a generous monetary award and a sculpture designed by Canadian designer Wei Yew. It celebrates a single work of architecture that is judged to be transformative within its societal context and expressive of the humanistic values of justice, respect, equality, and inclusiveness.
“The architects resolve a challenging and prescriptive program for a new Baha’i Temple near Santiago with a powerful form that creates a new landmark — a jewel — in a dramatic natural setting,” said the jury. “During the day, the striking form is animated by the variations of light and shade on the building’s softly turning surfaces. At night, it stands like a lantern, softly lit from within.”
The temple’s nine gracefully torqued wings, bound to an oculus at the top, are made of an outer layer of cast-glass panels and an interior layer of translucent marble from Portugal. The invention of this new material – cast-glass cladding – took four years of experimentation and collaboration with a Canadian glass artisan. The interior spaces of the temple are designed to invite people to come together and sit in quiet contemplation. An alcoved mezzanine offers a space to seek solitude while remaining connected with the community below.
The building holds an important place in the Chilean community, hosting community clubs, youth outreach programs, and children’s activities in partnership with public schools.
“At the heart of this building there is a belief and an aspiration: that even now, in the fractured 21st- century, we can respond to a human yearning to come together, to connect to one another, and to something that moves the spirit,” the architects wrote in their submission.
“The arced lines of the supple wooden benches invite people to come together, not as part of a congregation, but to congregate; to sit next to one another in quiet contemplation, sharing in the communal act of being,” they wrote.
“It was commissioned by the Bahá‘í House of Justice and is the eighth and final continental temple for the Bahá‘í Faith. But, central to its brief and its design is that it be a place of welcome, community, and meaning for everyone.”
In addition to the main monetary prize, three scholarships were also awarded to students of Canadian schools of architecture on the basis of a written essay on the topic of ‘the moment when they decided to become an architect.’ The winners are Laure Nolte, Dalhousie University, Lucie Palombi, University of Montreal, and Odudu Umoessien, University of Manitoba.
Hariri Pontarini Architects is a full-service Canadian firm dedicated to producing work of lasting value. Siamak Hariri and David Pontarini founded the Toronto office in 1994 motivated by a shared commitment to design quality. Today their 130-person practice offers its clients in-depth partner involvement through all stages of design and the breadth of building experience and technical expertise to rigorously oversee construction.