India Design Motifs – The Lotus, Part 28

BY: SUN STAFF - 3.1 2017

Baha'i Lotus Temple - Santiago, Chile

 A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In our last segment, we presented three unique lotus-shaped temples in India. One of these was the famed Lotus Temple of Delhi, erected by members of the Baha'i faith. Today we're looking at another example of lotus architecture, again designed as a temple for the Baha'i.

This project is currently underway in Santiago, Chile, South America. The lotus inspired structure was designed by award winning architect, Siamak Hariri of Toronto. His design is quite an amazing reproduction of the physical structure of the lotus flower. The typical Baha'i spaces for worship and religious activity are integrated with the lotus elements.

Although the program of worship in Baha'i temples is very different from that of Vaisnava temples, it's obvious that the lotus temple's design was inspired by a recognition of the same spiritual qualities attributed to the lotus by Vedic culture.

Baha'i scripture requires that places of worship be constructed as a nine-sided circular shape. While a dome is not a mandated element in their temples, all Baha'i temples in the world today currently feature domes. Given that the Baha'i faith originated in Persia in the 19th century, it's not surprising that their building style incorporates a Vedic dome motif. They feature certain other Vedic architectural elements as well, which the Mughals also adopted after descending upon India.

The sides of the Chile lotus temple will be constructed of nine petals, being translucent panels of alabaster and cast glass. One of the stunning aspects of the architectural design is the natural way in which the petals are torqued around the center of the lotus structure. The design is an inspired reproduction of the natural whorl of petals found throughout Sri Krsna's creation. The bottom lotus petals will appear as if floating over water.

The interior structure of the temple is a latticework of steel, necessary to support the enormous upper dome of petals. But the inner framework is also designed to suggest the geometry of the lotus.

At the lowest level, the center space is shaped by contoured wooden walkways that form the base petals. Rising up from the center are the petals themselves, shaped like a giant lotus bud. Suspended above the base petals is an area for seating the worshippers. A circular contoured wall creates a very realistic representation of the lotus fruit at the flower's center.