The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) 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 from Toronto, Canada.

The inside of the Baha’i Temple of South America. Image credit: Sebastián Wilson León

The inside of the Baha’i Temple of South America. Image credit: Sebastián Wilson León

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 commonality within diversity, and it has attracted over 1.4 million visitors since opening in 2016.

Now in its third cycle, the biennial prize received submissions from 12 countries across six continents. The prize was established in 2013 by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama along with the RAIC and the RAIC Foundation and was originally called the Moriyama RAIC International Prize.

The prize is open to all architects, irrespective of nationality and location, for a building anywhere in the world. The winner is selected in an open, juried competition.

“The architects resolve a challenging and prescriptive programme 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 programmes, 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,” the jury 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.”