2019 RAIC International Prize to Hariri Pontarini's Baha'i Temple

John Hill
28. October 2019
Photo: doublespace photography (All images courtesy of v2com)

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) has announced that the Baha’i Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile, designed by Toronto's Hariri Pontarini Architects, is the winner of the 2019 RAIC International Prize.

Hariri Pontarini Architects is the third recipient of the biennial $100,000CAD RAIC International Prize, following Li Xiaodong for the Liyuan Library in China in the prize's inaugural year and Tezuka Architects for the Fuji Kindergarten in Japan 2017.

Three finalists were announced for the 3rd RAIC International Prize in May of this year. Hariri Pontarini Architects bested Thread: Artists’ Residence and Cultural Center in Sinthian, Senegal, by Toshiko Mori Architect, and Edificio E, Lecture Building, University of Piura in Piura, Peru, by Barclay & Crousse. The six-member jury visited each of the buildings before deciding on the winner.

Edificio E actually won the 2018 MCHAP, one of a few awards created this decade — including the RAIC International Prize and RIBA International Prize — that sees institutions and organizations granting awards beyond their borders. In the case of the 3rd RAIC International Prize, it just so happens the South American building, which has attracted 1.4 million visitors since its 2016 completion, was designed by an architecture firm based in Canada.

Photo: Sebastián Wilson León

The jury said of the building of stone, glass, steel, and wood: "The architects resolve[d] a challenging and prescriptive program ... with a powerful form that creates a new landmark — a jewel — in a dramatic natural setting. 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."

Photo: Guy Wenborne

The temple accommodates 600 worshippers inside a circular enclosure formed by nine stone-and-glass "veils." Each wing is made from an inside layer of translucent marble from Portugal and an outside layer of cast glass panels. A steel superstructure — fabricated in Germany and then shipped in sections to Chile — supports these materials. The whole building sits atop concrete rings and columns on seismic isolators that enable it to absorb the shocks of any earthquakes. Needless to say, The Baha’i Temple of South America is a technical feat of materials and engineering, but it results in a striking object and stunning space that is, in the words of architect Siamak Hariri, "intimate, sacred, and [where] everyone is welcome."

Photo: Hariri Pontarini Architects

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