Being one of Toronto’s internationally acclaimed architecture firms, Hariri Pontarini Architects has experience when it comes to making headlines, and with the recent announcement of a striking new institutional project, the studio seems to have done it again. The firm has been commissioned by the Canadian arm of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada to design the religious group's new Bahá’í National Centre and Temple in Markham, and have stepped up to the task, delivering a dynamic proposal that will surely catch the eye of the global architecture community. 

Proposed design for the 30m temple at the new Bahá'í National Centre, image from submission to City of Markham

The project expands on the existing relationship between Hariri Pontarini Architects and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís, forged over the last decade through the design of the Bahá’í Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile. 

Since its completion in 2016, the Santiago temple has been touted as a generational success, representing some of the finest achievements in cultural design while simultaneously activating a number of highly sophisticated design systems, with a focus on the manipulation of light through translucent materials. The building’s extensive list of accolades includes the American Institute of Architecture Innovation Award, and the World Architecture News Award for Best in the Americas, Civic Building, to name just a couple. 

The Bahá'í Temple of South America, in Santiago, Chile, image from

The new National Centre in Markham will bring a timely update to the current facility located at 7200 Leslie Street, just north of Steeles Avenue and the Toronto City Limits, reconfiguring the wooded, ravine site to improve the administrative spaces while imagining a number of new uses for the community. The temple stands out as the most significant update, expanding the Centre’s role to become a more active hub for the community, but several other auxiliary facilities like a daycare and temporary lodging would further elevate the current Centre’s programming. 

Site plan shows locations of proposed new buildings, image from submission to City of Markham

Beginning with the temple, the structure is formally reminiscent of the Temple in Santiago in many ways, but contemplates how the Canadian environment creates a unique set of conditions. Standing at a height of 30 metres, the equivalent of about nine storeys, the Temple features nine entrances, as required for all Bahá’í temples, each created by a space between the curving layered panels that form the temple walls. 

Bahá'í Temple pictured in winter, image from submission to City of Markham

The exterior finish appears to make a textural reference to the surrounding environment, laden with tall coniferous trees, adding ridges and grooves to the surfaces of the panels, which twist and warp to create organic lines. 

Conversely, the administrative building features a much more minimal design relying heavily on orthogonal forms with a modernist style. The sloped landscape and surrounding greenery factor heavily into the design, working with the changing grade to create a building that becomes a part of the existing landscape rather than disrupting it.

Rendering of proposed modernist design for administrative building, image from submission to City of Markham

With elegant exterior finishes of stone and glass, the National Centre will enjoy natural light throughout the day, and provide a much broader range of facilities for the Bahá’í community to enjoy in the future. 

The proposal for the site was submitted to the City of Markham in December, 2022. The site is currently zoned for residential use only, but Keith Irish, Councillor for Ward 1 Markham is recommending that the site zoning be amended to accommodate the proposed uses.

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  Hariri Pontarini Architects, Schollen & Company