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BAHAI HOUSE OF WORSHIP

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is

Bihar Sharif, Bihar 

Ongoing

41,000 sqft

Cultural, Spiritual

Architecture Live!, Biltrax Media , Architect and Interiors India, Religion World

Shortlisted in Future Civic category of World Architecture Festival, 2022

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Bahai house of worship intertwines the vivid narrative of art, craft, technology, and architecture. The edifice sits at the center of 7.5 acre site, located in a historically relevant site of Bihar Sharif, famous for the ancient Buddhist universities of Nalanda and Odantapuri. It is designed as a place of worship open to all irrespective of any religious affiliations. 

Understanding the words "as perfect as possible in the world of being" led to an exploration of the sacred geometry as expressed in nature-the spiraling proportions and patterns seen everywhere from the galaxies of the cosmos to the feathers of birds to a humble blade of grass, and the folk art of Bihar- Madhubani., which has its roots in a meditative observation of nature of forest dwelling communities. The edifice is a 16-meter high dome of concrete and brick resting on a star-shaped, 5-meter high plinth. Visitors climb up gently-sloping ramps through shallow pools and gardens to reach the edifice entrance. The edifice steps up from nine-sided arched segments, multiplying till each segment appears to merge into a singular geometry – the Oculus which allows light inside and marks the focus of those below towards the higher power above.

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The structural system is a double membrane that combines structural brick arches and squinches with a concrete shell structure. In Bihar, brick is the ubiquitous material of choice – visible in the ordinary, as well as monumental architecture such as the magnificent ruins of Nalanda. In the edifice, brick brings together millennia of human intelligence with modern construction technology. The manner in which a single module comes together to form larger modules further replicating to form the larger whole of the dome's surface, underscoring both collective and individual roles in the community of faith.

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The form of the prayer hall has been optimized for natural daylight and ventilation. Openings at the center of the dome and in each ring of arches will reduce the weight of the ceiling while allowing gentle light to filter in. The acoustics of the space have been carefully designed, eliminating the need of additional audio visual equipment, further reducing the dependency on electricity.

The quest to hunt for ideas which will have consequences in the future, led to an explorative process to optimize the building efficiency in terms of lighting, heating, cooling and structural stability without compromising on the aesthetics.

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The layout of the edifice paves way to an organic landscape of trees that invite fauna. Miyawaki technique is proposed along the site peripheries with clearings and water features for informal, community activities. Thus, the micro-climate of the site is enhanced with the addition of trees and water bodies.

A low-cost passive cooling system utilizes the geothermal heat sink of the surrounding earth to cool the edifice from below. Small openings for natural light act as cavity resonators, a traditional acoustic design element used in domes through centuries.

The House of Worship in Bihar Sharif strives to fulfill two simultaneous design ideals – fit into the ‘everyday’ while celebrating the ‘extraordinary’.