Commonly known as the Lotus Temple, the Bahá’í House of Worship is definitely one of the most beautiful and intriguing religious buildings ever made, from any point of view. And with over four million visitors every year and 70 million that it has already welcomed, surely one of the most appreciated.
The first thing worth mentioning is this buildings purpose, its meaning; it serves as a gathering place for people belonging to any cult or religion, it is a free place were regardless who they are or what they believe in, they can worship and meditate. The costs were covered by private donations, people who believe and care about religion and divinity. The design was inspired by a lotus flower, an object that defines many symbols and believes. On the architects website there is a short quote from Roger’s White, Flower in Bloom about the conception of this amazing piece of design:
“While designing the Bahá’í House of Worship for India; a Temple dedicated to the Oneness Of God, the Oneness of Religions and the Oneness of Mankind in which peoples of all backgrounds are welcome — architect Faroborz Sahba was inspired to use the lotus flower as the basis for his creation. He chose it as a symbol for the Bahá’í belief in the potential purity of the human spirit; he chose it as a metaphor for the truth that out of the “murky waters” of our collective history of ignorance and violence we will arise to create a new age of peace and universal brotherhood.”
Its exterior shell has been compared to Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, which was the first ever digitally designed building. This structure however is surrounded by symbols and every gesture is based on a particular belief. For example, the structure is defined by twenty-seven seven seemingly leaves or petals, organized in groups of three, that unload their weight on nine circular structure points. Different from most temples around the world, there isn’t just one main entrance, there are nine. The building can be entered from any part. This gesture enhances the great influence of the vertical axis of the building (many religious structures are constructed with a vertical axis), a symbol of divinity and the lack of the human capability of ever reaching it. Inside the temple there are no pictures, statues or images and no altars or pulpits; the readers are welcome to stay behind simple lecture stands. The same axis that marks the exterior can be found on the interior too: the inner leaves meet at the top of the building but do not intersect, making room for a most interesting skylight. The outer shell is made out of marble-clad free-standing concrete slabs, the same marble that can be found on various Greek temples and other Bahá’í Houses of Worship.
The temple has received numerous awards for its extraordinary design:
1987: the award for excellence in religious art and architecture by the UK-based Institution of Structural Engineers for producing a building “so emulating the beauty of a flower and so striking in its visual impact”;
1987: the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, Affiliate of the American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C., gave their First Honour award for “Excellence in Religious Art and Architecture” 1987 to Mr. F. Sahba for the design of the Bahá’í House of Worship near New Delhi;
1988: the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America conferred the Paul Waterbury Outdoor Lighting Design Award – Special Citation for Exterior Lighting
1989: the award from the Maharashtra-India Chapter of the American Concrete Institute for “excellence in a concrete structure”;
2000: Architectural Society of China as one of 100 canonical works of the 20th century in the recently published “World Architecture 1900-2000: A Critical Mosaic, Volume Eight, South Asia”;
2000: GlobArt Academy, based in Vienna, Austria, presented its “GlobArt Academy 2000” award to the architect of the Lotus Temple, Fariborz Sahba, for the magnitude of the service of [this] Taj Mahal of the 20th century in promoting the unity and harmony of people of all nations, religions and social strata, to an extent unsurpassed by any other architectural monument worldwide.
Type: House of Worship
Architectural style: Expressionist
Location: New Delhi, India
Completed: 13 November 1986
Opening: 24 December 1986
Structural system: Concrete frame and precast concrete ribbed roof
Architect: Fariborz Sahba
Structural engineer: Flint & Neill
Seating capacity: 1,300