Lotus Temple

Year:1986

Duration:6 years

Cost:$10m (£16m today)

Country: New Delhi, India

What did this project achieve?

Bring to life a cardboard lotus flower design into a landmark temple in India

The Lotus Temple in New Delhi is one of 7 temples of the Baha'i faith in the world. Like all Baha'i temples its structure is a circular 9-sided shape.

The building is made up of 27 free-standing marble petals arranged to form the 9 sides of the temple. The central worship hall inside is 40m high and has capacity for 2,500 people.

The temple and its architect have won several awards – including one from the UK's Institute of Structural Engineers in 1987 for producing a building 'so striking in its visual impact.'

The Baha'i faith teaches the unity and equality of all people and religions. The religion welcomes anyone into its temples and allows the texts of other religions to be read aloud or chanted. The religion started in Persia (now Iran) in 1863. It has 5-7 million followers.

The Delhi temple was built with a donation from Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad in southern India who gave his entire life savings for the project.

The Lotus Temple claims to be the most visited building in the world.

Difference the temple has made

The Lotus Temple is one of the most popular tourist attractions in India. According to the government over 100 million visitors have been to the temple by the end of 2014.

As well as serving as an important focal point for a world religion the temple has helped the local economy by bringing tourists and pilgrims to Delhi.

How the building work was done

The temple's design was inspired by the lotus flower – the national flower of India.

Engineers constructed the building out of 27 'leaves'. Each leaf is a marble-clad free-standing concrete slab.

There are 3 sorts of leaf making up the temple. The 9 entrance leaves mark the 9 sides of the complex. Outer leaves are used as the roof for the ancillary spaces. The 9 inner leaves form the worship space. These leaves approach each other, but do not meet at the top.

The worship space is capped with a glass and steel skylight. This helps to make the building sustainable as it lets in plenty of natural light.

Engineers used air circulation to help keep the building cool. Working with a model tested at Imperial College London, the project team confirmed that openings in the basement and at the top of the structure would draw air through the building.

This kind of natural ventilation is particularly valuable in Delhi which is very hot for several months of the year. Air conditioning driven by electricity could be very expensive.

The project team fitted the temple with solar panels – the first temple on Delhi to use them. The building gets around 20% of its electricity from solar energy.

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An engineering feat that will set standards for centuries.

The Tribune

New Delhi's daily English language newspaper.

Fascinating facts

The lotus flower is common to several religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Marble used for the temple comes from Mount Penteli in Greece. This Pentelikon marble is also used for other Baha'i houses of worship.

The 6 other Baha'i houses of worship are in Sydney, Australia, Panama City in Panama, Apia in Western Samoa, Kampala in Uganda, Frankfurt in Germany and Wilmette in the US.

People who made it happen

  • Architect: Fariborz Sahba
  • Structural engineers: COWI
  • Built by: ECC Construction Group

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