Sitting on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, within the foothills of the Andes Mountains, is the Baha’i Temple of South America.

It might not look like your typical place of worship, but the unique structure is widely recognized as a religious place and has become an architectural landmark.

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The temple took 14 years to come to fruition, and was spearheaded by Toronto firm Hariri Pontarini Architects. Now the firm and its masterpiece have been shortlisted for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s International Prize for socially transformative architecture.

“The architects resolve a challenging and prescriptive program for a new Baha’i Temple in Santiago with a powerful form that creates a new landmark – a jewel – in a dramatic natural setting,” one juror said, according to RAIC’s website.

04bahaitemple 683x1024 Photo by Doublespace Photography

The Baha’i Temple is one of three structures that was shortlisted for the 2019 RAIC International Prize. The award is known as one of the most generous in the world for architecture, as it comes with a prize of $100,000.

The prize is also inclusive, since any architect around the world can make a submission. Winners are then selected by a six-member jury who physically visit each structure and judge them based on a number of criteria. 

19bahaitemple 1024x683 Photo courtesy of Hariri Pontarini Architects

What makes the Baha’i Temple such a standout is its nine wings, which are made of cast-glass panels and translucent marble.

The result is timeless and inspiring,” another juror said, “a building that uses a language of space and light, form and materials, to express an interpretation of Bahai philosophy and teaching that becomes universally accessible as a shared spiritual and emotional experience.”

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Toronto Storeys has reached out to Hariri Pontarini Architects to find out what it means to them to have their architectural work shortlisted.

Hariri Pontarini Architects is the same firm behind the ROM Welcome Project, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, the University of Toronto’s Jackman Law Building, the Galleria Mall Redevelopment, and many other projects in Toronto. 

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Alongside their Baha’i Temple, here are the two other structures that have been shortlisted for the 2019 RAIC International Prize:

Edificio E, Lecture Building

19 Photo by Cristóbal Palma

Where: University of Piura, Piura, PeruFirm: Barclay & Crousse (Lima, Peru)

Thread: Artists’ Residence and Cultural Center

02centralgathering 1024x683 Photo by Iwan Baan

Where: Sinthian, SenegalFirm: Toshiko Mori Architect  (New York, U.S.A.)

The winner will be announced on October 25 at a gala in Toronto.