Siamak Hariri
Founding Partner of Hariri Pontarini Architects

Siamak Hariri is a founding Partner of Hariri Pontarini Architects, a 150 person practice based in Toronto. His portfolio of nationally and internationally recognized buildings has won over 60 awards, including the Governor Generalís Medal in Architecture, celebrated as one of Canadaís Artists who mattered most by the Globe and Mail, and with his Partner David Pontarini, the 2013 Royal Architectural Institute of Canadaís Architectural Firm Award.

One of Siamakís earliest HPA projects, the Canadian headquarters of McKinsey & Company, is the youngest building to receive City of Toronto heritage landmark designation. More recent public and private projects include the Bah·íi Temple of South America, the Tom Patterson Theatre for the Stratford Festival, the Science, Research and Innovation Facility at the University of Windsor, and the Nicol Building at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. Siamakís work embodies abiding commitment to architectureís essentials and he brings to every creative project a profound interest in light, form, site, material, and craft.

The Bahá‘í Temple of South America: An Architecture of InclusionAt the heart of this building there is a belief and an aspiration: that even now, in the fractured 21st-century, we can respond to a human yearning to come together, to connect to one another, and to something that moves the spirit. The Temple sits on the edge of Santiago and nestles against the spine of the Andes mountains. It was commissioned by the Bahá‘í House of Justice and is the eighth and final continental temple for the Bahá‘í Faith. But, central to its brief and its design is that it be a place of welcome, community and meaning for everyone.

The Temple is a human place, universally appealing in its form and at one with its landscape. Distilled to its very essence, the Temple is a building that seeks to come alive with light – embodied light. Composed of nine identical, gracefully torqued wings bound to the oculus at the top, creating weightless movement around a grounded centre, the Temple is light but also rooted and has a sense of permanence. A circular structure with nine sides, nine entrances open, figuratively and symbolically, to everyone.

In contrast to the Temple’s subtlety on the landscape, once inside the building soars along with the spirt of those who enter. The voluminous interior is alive with soft light that filters through the cast glass exterior and translucent marble interior of the wings, bathing visitors in warmth. The arced lines of the supple wooden benches invite people to come together, not for a congregation, but to congregate; to sit next to one another in quiet contemplation, sharing in the communal act of being. The alcoved mezzanine above allows those seeking solitude to tuck into themselves while not losing connectedness with the community below.

Given the intimacy and delicacy of the Temple, it is easy to overlook the inherent toughness of the structure and engineering required for the building to weather the rugged climate in this earthquake prone region for 400 years to come. The process of achieving this was quite extraordinary, involving the hands of many; artisans, engineers and craftsmen from Canada, the United States, Europe and Chile, and a team of countless global volunteers. The process, like the building itself, drawing people together in pursuit of a common goal.

Expressing an unwavering belief in inclusion, the Temple has become the embodiment of a human aspiration for commonality within diversity. Since opening in the fall of 2016, the Temple has quickly developed into a major attractor in South America, welcoming over 1.4 million visitors, and sees up to 36,000 people on busy weekends. Amongst these, many Mapuche, the indigenous peoples of Chile, who made the trek to the Temple their first journey away from their village. It holds an important place within the Chilean social landscape, hosting community clubs, youth outreach programs and children’s activities in partnership with the public schools. The Temple is a timeless place where people feel at home, able to hold their beliefs amongst others.