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Lotus Temple

New Delhi, India
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Popularly known as the Lotus Temple, the Baha'i House of Worship in New Delhi, India is a house of worship that was designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and completed in 1986. The temple is one of eight Baha'i House of Worship facilities in the world and has welcomed over 70 million visitors since its completion, making it one of the most frequented architectural landmarks in the world. From a denominational standpoint, the Lotus temple is open to all practitioners regardless of religious affiliation and functions more as a gathering place of worship to interested visitors.

On first glance, there are notable similarities between the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House - in keeping with Baha'i scripture, the Lotus temple is organized as a nine-sided circular structure that is comprised of twenty-seven "leaves" (marble-clad free-standing concrete slabs), organized in groups of three on each of the temple's nine sides. The structure is inspired by the lotus flower and is arguably one of the most visible instances of biomimicry in contemporary architecture.

The aforementioned "leaves" are integral to the organization of the space and are classified into three categories: entrance leaves, outer leaves, and inner leaves. The entrance leaves (nine in total), demarcate the entrance on each of the nine sides of the complex. The outer leaves serves as the roof to the ancillary spaces, complemented by the inners leaves which form the main worship space. These inner leaves approach, but do not meet at the tip of the worship space and are capped with a dramatic glass and steel skylight. The temple is constructed primarily of concrete and clad in Grecian marble, resulting in the Lotus Temple's pristine white exterior while the interior of the structure is revealed in true Expressionist fashion, with the precast ribbed roof exposed in the worship spaces.

Funded almost entirely by private donations, the structure is sited on a magnificent 26-acre landscape including native vegation and a series of nine ponds surrounding the temple. Appropriately, the Lotus Temple and Sahba have been the recipient of multiple international design awards, included an award in excellence from the Instituation of Structural Engineers (1987), a special citation from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (1988), designation as one of 100 canonical works by the Architectural Society of China (2000), and an architect award from the GlobArt Academy in Vienna (2000). With a capacity of 2,500 practitioners, this seminal architectural work is well-equipped to be a global architectural masterpiece for years to come.