There now remains the important consideration of a design for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. It does not matter whether it is executed by a Bahá’í or a non-Bahá’í architect, but the essential thing is that it must be beautiful and dignified. There must be none of this hideous, exaggerated, bizarre style, which one sees in many modern buildings. It is not befitting for our House of Worship. He thinks that you should impress this on any architects wishing to submit drawings. The essentials of the design, as stipulated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are that the building should be nine-sided, and circular in shape. Aside from this, the architect is not restricted in any way in choosing his style of design.
Whenever you have a sufficient collection of drawings, he would be pleased to receive them, and give you his advice.
A very large building at this time is not necessary, as the expense would overtax our resources too heavily; and the Persian Bahá’ís, who are so much more numerous, will have to, during the coming nine years, build a much larger and more pretentious structure in Ṭihrán, and consequently a more expensive one.
The Temple must naturally be a dignified and worthy edifice. He does not consider that any of these modernistic experiments in architecture are at all suitable for a building of this nature, lacking as they so often do, beauty and dignity.
He also considers that the building should be a relatively small one, both because of the size of the Community in Germany, and the financial resources of the Faith at present. The most important thing of all is to build this first Temple on European soil.
In the days when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was urging the American Bahá’ís to build the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the western world, He repeatedly emphasized that it could be a modest building, and that the important thing was the spiritual element that this House of Worship in the name of Bahá’u’lláh should be raised in the heart of America. The same thing applies now to your Temple in Germany. Size and pretentiousness are not important. The important thing is that the building should be speedily erected, and be a financial possibility, not placing, as the American Temple, a terrible strain on the friends for years to come.
As to the question of the relationship of an administrative building to the Temple; this also will have to be defined in future, but whatever the actual form which such relationship may assume, and whatever its details, it should be based on the general principle that these two sets of Bahá’í institutions embody two vital and distinct, yet inseparable aspects of Bahá’í life: worship and service. The central edifice of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, which is exclusively devoted to purposes of worship, represents the spiritual element, and therefore fulfils a primary function in every Bahá’í Community, whereas all other Temple accessories, whether of a strictly administrative, cultural or humanitarian character, are secondary, and come next in importance to the House of Worship itself.
Concerning the rush of the crowds to visit the Temple, Shoghi Effendi would like the committee in charge to be very careful to maintain order and also show a spirit of courtesy and hospitality to those who visit it. Should those that come to see the building be properly treated they would be attracted to the movement or at least carry back a nice spirit to their homes. The friends have to be very considerate to such visitors if they desire to have the Cause spread. This, however, should not necessarily mean that disorder has to prevail in the building. It is for the committee in charge to devise the proper method that is in close conformity with the spirit of the movement.
He sincerely hopes that now that the Temple is completed it will be filled to the full with pure seeking souls. It should be different from the other houses of worship which even if they are filled, their source of attraction is the music heard. Here the spirit should be so powerful as to awaken the heart of every one that enters it to the glory of Bahá’u’lláh and to the importance of the message of peace He has brought to the world.
The beloved Master has not given very many details concerning the House of Worship. He has written in tablets, however, that the building must be round, and be 9-sided. The Guardian feels that at this time all Bahá’í temples should have a dome. In other words, the instructions of the Master to have a round, 9-sided building must be very carefully carried out; but in addition the Guardian feels the Temples built now should likewise have a dome.
The Guardian sees no objections to asking other architects to collaborate with the architect of the design “Azamat”. However it should be understood that the Guardian does not wish this collaboration or adaptation to result in the ultra-modern type of building which is the motif of the submissions which have been made, and which he has rejected.
The Guardian advises that the 2 designs which are favored by your Assembly and the architects of Germany are not acceptable; and therefore correspondence with regard to these designs is no longer necessary.
Time moves on, and the Guardian therefore hopes that the result of the collaboration and adaptation of the Azamat design will be presented to him in the near future.
The Guardian has no objections of course to new designs being presented; but they must carry with them the dignified spirit of the Faith, and must be in keeping with the distinction and honor which comes to the temples now being built being the first in their respective continents.
In telling people of the nine religions of the world, that is existing religions, we should not give this as the reason the Temple has nine sides. This may have been the idea of the architect, and a very pleasing idea, which be mentioned in passing, but the Temple has nine sides because of the association of 9 with perfection, unity and ‘Bahá’.
In passing, there is one point to be mentioned, and that is that the Temple in Wilmette does not constitute a pattern for other Temples, nor does it represent a new type of Baha’i architecture. Therefore it is not necessary for your architects to endeavour to follow that pattern. What should be done is to follow the Master’s instructions as to the Temple, and then to create something that will be desirable and appropriate for your area.
He was very happy to hear that the National Assembly is pressing the work as regards having designs made for the Temple to be built in Frankfurt. He attaches the greatest importance to this enterprise, as you know; and considers that two points must be constantly borne in mind by the architects; one, that the building must not be too expensive, and two, that the design must be beautiful and dignified, and not show the influence of the extremes of modern architecture, which are transient in style, for the most part ugly, and altogether too utilitarian in aspect for a House of Worship.
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.
He sincerely hopes that the sight of the Temple, as well as the principles it stands for, will sink down into the heart of the people in that locality and help to attract them to the Faith. It is not sufficient to build a beautiful edifice; we have to fill it with sincere and devoted souls who will seek its spiritual atmosphere.
He feels that one of the most important points is the acoustics of the building, and the NSA must be sure it is getting the very ablest professional advice in this matter, as well as in all others.
Vocal music alone may be used and the position of the singers, or singer, is also a matter for your Assembly to decide; but again, there should be no fixed point, no architectural details marking a special spot. Acoustics should certainly be the main consideration in placing the singers…
He need not tell you how very important the decisions are which you will now be called upon to make in connection with completing the Temple… He urges you, at all times, to receive the very best technical advice, and to bear in mind that the main thing is that the meetings in the Temple should be conducted in a beautiful and peaceful setting, in comfort and with dignity and simplicity, and that the audience should be able to hear perfectly and the tone values be pleasant to the ear.
The Beloved Guardian explains that there is no requirement for one window to be oriented toward the East. In fact, he feels this should not be done; otherwise it will take on a practice of the Moslems with regard to their prayer niche, etc. I am sending a copy of this note to the German NSA, so they will understand.
The Guardian has also indicated that there is nothing in the teaching requiring one dome for the building, in fact, any dome. It is of course more beautiful, generally to have a dome, or even domes, but that is not a necessary requirement of the Temple.
Likewise the Guardian indicates, it is not essential that there be nine doors.
The real requisite is that the building should be circular in shape, having nine sides; that there should be nine gardens, walks, etc….
3. The Guardian therefore feels that we should not accept an ultra-modern building, which represents more or less the current spirit of the time, rather than the delicate architectural beauty which the spirit of the Faith should engender.
4. The Guardian would be happy if your Assembly could produce a design of a building, graceful in outline, with a dome. If they can do this he will be very pleased. The main thing for the architect to consider is the mass of the building, the outline of the building and its architectural beauty. Most of the sacred buildings, including the Temple at Wilmette, include elements of the previous schools of architecture in an ensemble that seems to present something new. He thinks the architects should study the graceful mass of the Wilmette Temple, of the design of Mr. Remey for the Temple on Mt. Carmel, and the Shrine of the Báb, as well as the outline of the domes of important buildings, particularly the dome of St. Peters in Rome. In this way they will get an idea of proportions which they feel are suitable. The details and the style is somewhat secondary and is left to the architect’s taste.
It is permissible and satisfactory to use the prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the devotional services in the Temple. His public talks and Tablets should not be used, but His prayers may be used.
As to the character of the meetings in the auditorium of the Temple, he feels that they should be purely devotional in character, Bahá’í addresses and lectures should be strictly excluded. For the present he feels that there would be no objection to having Bahá’í meetings, including addresses and the business sessions of the Convention, held in the Foundation Hall. Shoghi Effendi would urge that choir singing by men, women and children be encouraged in the auditorium and that rigidity in the Bahá’í service be scrupulously avoided. The more universal and informal the character of Bahá’í worship in the Temple the better. Images and pictures, with the exception of the Greatest Name, should be strictly excluded. Prayers revealed by Bahá’u’lláh and the Master, as well as the sacred writings of the Prophets, should be read or chanted, as well as hymns based upon Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í sacred writings.
He personally does not believe that the Master’s wish to have a Temple inspired by the Taj Mahal meant that it must be one hundred percent based on that building and fully Indian in all details. He feels the Master meant that the general impression, the beauty, contours and symmetry of that glorious tomb should be predominant in the Temple.
The Guardian feels very strongly that, regardless of what the opinion of the latest school of architecture may be on the subject, the styles represented at present all over the world in architecture are not only very ugly, but completely lack the dignity and grace which must be at least partially present in a Bahá’í House of Worship. One must always bear in mind that the vast majority of human beings are neither very modern nor very extreme in their tastes, and that what the advanced school may think is marvelous is often very distasteful indeed to just plain, simple people.