Design of Colombian House of Worship unveiled

September 16, 2014
The design of the central edifice of the local Baha'i House of Worship was unveiled before an audience of some 500 people.

NORTE DEL CAUCA, Colombia — The design for the local Baha'i House of Worship in the Norte del Cauca region of Colombia was unveiled Sunday at a meeting held at the site designated for its construction.

A small team from the Colombian architectural firm, CUNA, presented the approved plans before an audience of 500 people from the region and further afield. Speaking on behalf of the firm, Eduard Lopez, one of the architects working on the project, expressed the team's gratitude for having been given the opportunity to participate in this initiative.

Describing the process by which the team developed the design for the Temple, Mr. Lopez explained that its members spent many hours, over the course of months, visiting different communities and groups in Norte del Cauca, listening to their ideas and thoughts about the House of Worship, coming to understand their aspirations, and participating in their community-building activities.

"We understand that this is a deeply emotional process for you," he said. "It is also deeply emotional for us."

"People tell us that we are designing this House of Worship. But it is actually all of you who have designed it, and we are channeling your ideas."

Mr. Lopez went on to explain how the team studied the natural surroundings and the architecture of the homes in the region in order to prepare a design that would not only be in harmony with the culture of the people, but also with the physical environment.

Youth perform a traditional dance from the region. Slideshow
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Youth perform a traditional dance from the region.

"We chose the materials for the buildings with a number of variables in mind," Mr. Lopez explained. "We wanted materials that were from this region; materials that would not harm the natural surroundings."

"The central concepts behind the design were simplicity and unity. This is how we find that God has made nature," he further elaborated.

In a letter to the Baha'is of the world on 1 August, the Universal House of Justice articulated the nature of the task before the architects working on designs for the local Baha'i Houses of Worship which are to be constructed in seven localities around the world in the near future:

"Architects are presented with the singular challenge of designing Temples 'as perfect as is possible in the world of being' that harmonize naturally with the local culture and the daily lives of those who will gather to pray and meditate therein. The task calls for creativity and skill to combine beauty, grace, and dignity with modesty, functionality, and economy."

Norte del Cauca comprises a number of towns with long stretches of sugar cane fields between them. It is a largely rural region. The land for the House of Worship is situated in the small community of Agua Azul. In the backdrop stand the Andes mountains.

In this setting, at approximately 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday, the architectural team unveiled the Temple design.

The presentation was preceded by a traditional Colombian dance and a number of songs performed by the community. There was a palpable air of excitement as people gathered under tents that had been erected on the Temple land, over the area where the central edifice will be built.

"It was a moment we have been waiting for for months," explained Nilma Aguilar Vilas, who was born on the outskirts of Puerto Tejada, a town just a few kilometers away from the Temple land.

Mrs. Vilas was one of a number of people in Puerto Tejada who joined the Baha’i Faith as youth in the early 1980s and began to participate in educational programs inspired by its teachings.

"All my friends eventually studied in these programs," she said. "So many of the young women were educated through their programs, and they have been the ones who have made a profound difference in this area."

Monica Campos was also born in Norte del Cauca, in the small town of Santander de Quilichao. Reflecting on the historical context that had brought the House of Worship to her people, she explained that "the House of Worship is the materialization of forty years of development in Norte del Cauca. Not only has the Baha’i Faith developed in the region over these decades, but the region has developed together with the Baha’i Faith."

"Understanding this historical context," she continued, "helps us see that the House of Worship belongs to all the people of the region."