23 Sep Baha’i Temple Terraces and Gardens
A thorough restoration of the Baha’i Temple terrace and gardens revives the completeness, longevity, and beauty of a historic spiritual site.
The Baha’i Temple, situated along the lakeshore north of Chicago, is a major spiritual site for the Baha’i Faith and a National Historic Landmark. Its elegant design by Louis Bourgeois is typical of Baha’i houses of worship with its distinct circular, nine-sided plan.
Integral to the site is a series of nine gardens originally designed by landscape architect Hilbert Dahl, set below a terrace surrounding the temple’s nine sides. Each garden has a simple circular fountain and an avenue leading to the elevated terrace. A circular walk bounds the outside perimeter of the gardens, providing a meditative path linking all nine gardens. Trees, flowers, fountains, and other garden images and metaphors are commonly used in the Baha’i Writings, making the landscape design an important part of the spiritual experience.
A stunning integration of architecture and landscape, it was intended from the outset that the Temple and gardens should last for one thousand years.
Unfortunately under Chicago’s harsh weather conditions the Baha’i Temple’s durability has faced many challenges. The terrace and gardens in particular had steadily deteriorated to the point where an extensive overhaul was necessary. Carried out over several years, a full-scale restoration effort has returned the gardens to their intended pristine elegance.
Critical to the restoration was a complete overhaul and replacement of the crumbling terrace. A new terrace deck, made of precast pavers produced by the Baha’i Temple conservation staff, provides a more attractive and durable walking surface surrounding the Temple’s monumental stairs. In keeping with the site’s envisioned millennial lifespan, the reconstructed terrace pavers can be easily removed, repaired, and replaced by future generations. New precast concrete elements were produced using a white quartz mix to carefully match the existing work. New stainless steel guardrails were installed with a design slightly modified to meet the newer building code requirements.