Bahá’í Temple of South America
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger | Patricio Bertholet M. | Halcrow | Josef Gartner GmbH
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Chile
PRINCIPAL CONTRACTOR: Gartner Steel and Glass
ARCHITECT: Hariri Pontarini Architects
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 seismically active region, and with a 1000-year design life, this seismic-base isolated building employs novel materials and form which required close collaboration of the international team and extensive materials development and testing.
There are 1120 uniquely shaped piece of glass in each of the nine petals. The glass is a new type, developed to provide the required diffuse light quality demanded by the architects. Testing was carried out to understand its structural behaviour and develop material properties for design of these panels and their fixings.
The judges recognised the unique set of challenges in this project: in form, material and with its seismic location. Some of the materials are outside design codes and guidance and this demanded innovation in approach and detail and working to first principles, developing a performance-based design approach. The brittle behaviour of the heavy glass and marble elements required the development of project specific performance based failure criteria and multiple seismic scenarios.
The arrangement of the structure and the translucent cladding materials contribute to achieving the architect’s vision, and this would not have been possible without the engineering team's dedication to detail and innovation.