National Baha’i House Of Worship

Wolff Architects

The design was inspired by the Bahá’í tradition of making temples which are formed by a repetition of nine, identical segments, around a central dome. Each segment has a door being no more important than the other. The temple must reflect local traditions and should be built by people from the surrounding area.

The temple building consists of three main parts; the temple floor, the ring and the dome.

The temple floor is a simple surface with a slight indentation at its centre while the openness connects the pathways of the temple garden. The seating faces the Qiblih, the direction that Bahá’í should face when saying their daily prayers.

The ring which hovers above the temple floor is structurally supported by nine staircases and houses the gallery. Nine arches are cut into the walls of the ring to allow for circulation. Inside the tiered seating of the gallery lies a compression ring which supports the dome above. All structural edges are thin and seemingly too light to support the structure above. This enactment of an effortless lightness becomes an allegory of the sacred which the architects achieved by revealing secondary structure, whilst concealing primary structure.

The dome of the temple consists of an outer cone with nine facets and an inner dome which has an opening, an oculus, through which the disc can be seen with the sacred Bahá’í symbol. The architects have taken special care to ensure that edges of all openings in the crown of the dome are thin to convey the sense of a delicate floating membrane.

The decoration of the membrane relates to the local textile traditions as well as Bahá’í scriptures where the metaphor of rain illustrates how God’s grace is bestowed equally. The artwork was a collaboration btw Wolff Architects and Maja Marx which was then circulated to the Bahá’í congregation of the DRC and the international office for feedback. Once approved the art was converted into pixilated colour accent segments with contrasting matt and gloss finishes, which were manually applied. The 135 000 tiles were then reduced to 22 500 sets of individual tiling instructions which were carefully applied by Congolese tilers.

The masterful interpretation of the brief, unwavering commitment to the concept, and attention to the very last detail is truly an amazing feat and well deserving of recognition.

Architect:Wolff Architects

Client:National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of DRC

Structural Engineer:Arup

Electrical and Mechanical Engineer:Rankin Engineering

Acoustic Engineer:Mackenzie Hoy

All photographs courtesy of Bahá’í World News