Wednesday, June 5, 2013

BAHA'I HOUSE OF WORSHIP

The Baha'i House of Worship, located in Wilmette, Illinois, is absolutely spectacular.  It is included in the National Registry of Historic Places and has been named one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois, whatever that might mean.  I was last there some 45 years ago and decided to pay another visit this week, along with my wife, to take a few photos.

Completed in 1953 after more than 30 years of construction, the nine-sided structure is 135 feet high and 90 feet in diameter, but frankly it looks much larger from the outside.  It sits one street off of Lake Michigan on beautifully landscaped and impeccably maintained grounds.

Monday, June 3, was cool with brilliant sunshine, and we arrived at the temple a little before 10 am.  Here is a shot of the temple taken from the main entrance on the southeast side with the sun directly behind me.


The temple is constructed of concrete containing an aggregate of clear and white quartz chips of a uniform size.  Once the concrete components were created and in place, the exposed surfaces were "washed" with an acid solution to remove the smooth cement surface, revealing the rougher quartz aggregate texture underneath.  The effect is striking, creating a brilliant white appearance.  In fact, the temple actually appeared much brighter and whiter than this photograph indicates.  But when I tried to brighten things up, the temple began to look "washed out."  In the end, I left the exposure level more or less where it was to capture the exterior's rich textures and design.

Although the temple is spectacular, I wasn't sure how best to capture that spectacle from ground level.  (A lot of the more impressive photos of the temple are taken from elevated locations, primarily from the air.)  I finally decided the best I could do was to focus on some of the building's symmetries and detail.  Here are a few of those shots.




These shots provide some feel, I think, for the building's complex design and ornamentation.

Here is a close-up of one of the pillars appearing in the prior two shots.


Note the religious symbols, including the Christian cross and Jewish star of David.  Also note the swastika beneath the star of David.  Hmmm . . . .  A little research reveals that the swastika actually has a very old history, dating back over 4000 years.  It has had several meanings over the years, including "well-being" and "good luck."  It wasn't until 1920 that the symbol was adopted by the Nazi Party, forever transforming the symbol's emotional meaning.  The Nazi version has the arms bent the other way and set on the diagonal rather than vertically and horizontally.  The temple has a very Middle Eastern feel to it, and I am sure that there are other symbols imbedded in the temple's "lacing" that relate to others of the world's major religions.

As mentioned, the temple is surrounded by extremely well manicured landscaping, including a couple of reflecting pools.


Unfortunately, I did not have a lens with enough wide-angle capabilities to capture both the reflecting pool and the entire temple, but it looks nice nevertheless.

Even the railings on the circular pavilion surrounding the building have an interesting design, that was creating shadows on the pavilion itself.


Although photography is allowed anywhere on the exterior, as well as in a welcome center located underneath the temple, no photography is allowed in the interior of the dome, which is reserved for quiet meditation, religious services, and music (oral only, not instrumental).  We did visit the temple interior, but in all honesty, it did not have the same spectacular quality as the exterior.  It includes no statuary or other artwork and is limited to the same sort of abstract symbols as adorn the exterior.  The interior top of the dome does have a special arabic script, and though I was not able to get a photo of it, I was able to get a shot of a framed photo of it hanging in the welcome center.


Apparently, the script means "O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious."

Finally, here is one last shot of the temple, this time taken from the west side of the building.


Admission to the temple is free and, in fact, the Baha'i faith does not accept any donations from visitors.  Now that's refreshing.

John

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