Set on a hillside against the Andes Mountains, the Bahá’í Temple of South America welcomes worshipers from all directions through its nine entrances. The temple – which lets in light during the day and appears to glow in the evening – is comprised of nine wing-shaped, translucent petals of free-formed tubular steel space trusses, clad with cast glass on the exterior and marble on the interior. Constructed in a high-seismic zone with unique materials and structural systems, the temple's structural design employed performance-based design methods, extensive materials and structural testing, and seismic base isolation.
Located in a seismic region, the structural design employed performance-based design methods, and the entire structure rests on bearings that protect it from the shaking due to earthquakes.
In keeping with the architect’s design intention for the petals to allow light to enter the internal space, the frames are clad in translucent marble on the inside, and cast glass on the outside. The cast glass was a new product developed by the project artists, and engineers Simpson Gumpertz and Heger carried out laboratory testing in order to determine the properties of the material. The geometry of both the structure and the cladding is complex and has no repetition - a result achieved by the team’s extensive use of digital design and fabrication tools.
The temple is an example of the ingenuity of a structural design team in responding to the challenges set by the architectural vision for the project. The engineering team have shown creativity in their approach to the concept, technical excellence in the analysis and design process, and subtlety in their detailing and execution of a complex structure in a seismic zone.