Re: searching for name[s] of the architect[s] who designed and built the temple at Willmette

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Posted by Clyde A. Keys on December 07, 1998 at 02:50:30:

In Reply to: Re: searching for name[s] of the architect[s] who designed and built the temple at Willmette posted by greg sexton on November 08, 1998 at 21:39:42:

Greg Sexton

Dear Frank,

There is a good account in the Bahai Yearbook 1925-1926 (first volume of Bahai World).
The primary architect was Louis Bourgeois. Also a book called the Spirit of the Temple
has information. Contracts to build were with Avery Brundage, McCarty Bros. of Chicago,
and others.


A Model Is Built (This little note is from a pamphlet for visitors to the House of Worship
during the Five Year Plan)

Louis Bourgeois gazed forlornly at his laundry basket still filled with roses.
Even at the large flower market he had failed to find anyone who wished to buy
them. Filled with sadness, he started to leave the market; but when he reached
the door a man bumped against him, nearly knocking the basket from his hands.
The man was very apologetic and, to Louis Bourgeois' delight, offered to buy the
roses. With a five dollar bill clutched tightly in his hand, he hurried from
the market and traveled a long distance through New York City to make a very
special purchase. Then he returned home and, with great joy, exclaimed to his
wife, "Alice, I have the plaster, and now I can make my model!"

For the previous eight years Louis Bourgeois had tried, unsuccessfully, to create
a worthy design for the House of Worship. Then, with a war raging, his job gone,
his financial situation desperate, he began to envision a design. He drew for
several weeks only to realize, finally, that his concepts were so revolutionary
that they could not be communicated adequately by drawings alone.

"The only way to present it would be as a model; but how to make a model? I had
no money for a model-maker, and I had never made one before. Again I seemed
blocked, and the path ahead dark. Then one day, as I was in despair, that
spiritual guidance told me to go ahead and do the modeling myself, to which I
replied, 'I never did it and I do not know how'. Again the inner voice said,
'Go and do it'. I made up my mind that I would attempt to work with a first
barrel of plaster, which the basket of roses bought."

It took three years, filled with countless hardships, to create the model.
Finally it was finished and, in April, 1920, it was displayed with six other
designs at the headquarters building of the Engineering Societies of the United
States, located in New York, during the twelfth annual convention of the Bahai'
Temple Unity.

Great excitement was generated by the Bourgeois design. Mr. H. Van Buren
Magonigle, president of the Architectural League, declared, "It is the first
new idea in religious architecture since the thirteenth century. I want to see
it built."

The decision of the forty-nine delegates was unanimous - Louis Bourgeois' "Temple
of Light" would be built at Wilmette.

'Abdu'l-Baha was greatly pleased by the selection; however, He said it was too
big and, if possible, should be reduced in size to lower the cost. Experimental
drawings were made and it was determined the diameter of the building could be
shortened from the original 450 feet to 153 feet with the only notable change
being the number of windows on either side of the entrance doors.

The building was begun in 1921. The project was destined to be plagued with
engineering problems, lack of funds, lack of proper materials, a war and even a
fire. But the dream of Louis Bourgeois was destined to be transformed into an
incredibly magnificent structure; and no power on earth could prevent it.

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