Beauty of restored Shrine set to dazzle visitors and pilgrims
12 April 2011
The Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel, newly unveiled after more than two years of extensive restoration and conservation work. In 2008, the Shrine was inscribed – along with the Shrine of Baha'u'llah near Acre – as a site of "outstanding universal value" on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
HAIFA, Israel — After more than two years of extensive restoration work, Haifa's golden-domed Baha'i Shrine has been unveiled, to the delight of visitors, pilgrims and residents of the city.
Early this morning, the final set of covers was removed from the Shrine's dome, revealing almost 12,000 new, gilded tiles, crowning the immaculately restored building on Mount Carmel.
"Today the 'Queen of Carmel', concealed from the gaze of the public for the larger part of the project, is unveiled and resplendent again..." announced the Universal House of Justice, after visiting the Shrine to offer prayers of thanksgiving.
Haifa's Mayor, Advocate Yona Yahav, later joined civic dignitaries and guests at a celebratory reception, held in the city's historic German Templar colony with its spectacular view of the Shrine and its terraced gardens.
"I am the first Mayor of Haifa who was actually born here," said Mr. Yahav. "In 1954, I witnessed the Shrine's superstructure being built. To see these renovations is very touching. They are of the utmost importance."
The Shrine of the Bab and its gardens are renowned the world over for their beauty and tranquillity. In 2008, it was inscribed – along with the Shrine of Baha'u'llah near Acre – as a site of "outstanding universal value" on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Last year alone some 760,000 tourists and 7,500 Baha'i pilgrims and visitors were welcomed here.
"The Shrine affects the whole set up of Haifa," said Mayor Yahav. "It is the core and symbol of this tolerant and multi-cultural city."
Two years ahead of schedule
In a message sent to the worldwide Baha'i community, the Universal House of Justice recounted how the "restoration of this majestic edifice was preceded by three years of preparations, entailing comprehensive studies to assess its condition, to analyse the impact of the environment upon it, and to determine approaches and materials for the renovation that would remain faithful to the original design as well as withstand the rigours of time."
More than 50 years of exposure to Haifa's climate and environmental conditions had taken their toll on the superstructure's stonework and dome when work began in 2008.
Saeid Samadi, project architect and manager, says experts estimated such a restoration would normally take five to six years. "We originally targeted April 2013 for its completion. It is a tribute to the total dedication and unity of everyone involved that the project has been completed in less than three years.
"The team truly appreciated the importance of the place and never forgot where they were working," says Mr. Samadi. "We were all inspired by the Baha'i principle that everything should be created to the highest state of perfection."
The project required the restoration and conservation of the interior and exterior of the original 1909 structure, as well as measures to strengthen the Shrine against seismic forces. An entirely new retrofit design – combining concrete, steel and carbon fibre wrap technology – was needed for the whole building, from its foundation and original masonry to its octagon, drum and dome. More than 120 rock anchors were fixed into the mountain behind newly fortified retaining walls.
"Some 80,000 man-hours were spent on significantly improving the Shrine's resistance to earthquakes" says Mr. Samadi. "but it is all concealed from view and does not affect the beauty and grandeur of the original architecture at all."
Restoring the stone and dome
Progress on the Shrine restoration was significantly helped along by an earlier two-year project on the nearby International Baha'i Archives building, says Mr. Samadi.
"We studied the Shrine and researched materials and techniques while still working on the Archives. That experience generated a lot of momentum. We knew the experts; we perfected the skills and techniques. With the Shrine, we did not finish one job before starting another. We were working on the structure, carrying out the stone restoration, doing many things at the same time."
More than 50,000 man-hours were spent on the stonework by the staff of the restoration office and volunteers - including many young people - from Australia, Canada, China, Ecuador, Germany, India, Kenya, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vanuatu, all trained by expert conservators. Every square centimetre of the building's exterior was checked and restored.
"For the original superstructure, Carrara marble was wanted but it was not easy to come by after the Second World War," says Mr. Samadi. "The only stone available was Chiampo marble. When we were researching to see how it has been restored in Europe, we discovered that – because of its nature – it has not been used anywhere else for exterior cladding, just for flooring. There was no background knowledge on how to do it."
New techniques also had to be developed to replace the Shrine's golden tiles. For two years, efforts were made to see if the badly eroded old tiles could be restored. "We checked the condition of every single tile but, as a result of their exposure to the elements, many were broken beyond repair and the rest could not be restored back to their original beauty," says Mr. Samadi.
After several years of research, a Portuguese firm was contracted to produce new tiles in more than 120 different shapes and sizes. Leading-edge technology was employed to manufacture each tile from pure porcelain, covered with layers of glazing and gold solution, and finished with a highly durable final coating.
"The company had never done anything like this before," says Mr. Samadi. "They are renowned for museum-quality porcelain artefacts. But the result is perfect. Not only are the tiles beautiful, they are five to six times more abrasion-resistant than the originals."
An expert mason and tile setter from New Zealand – Bruce Hancock – was flown in to supervise the work to be carried out by the staff of the restoration office. "We had to learn as we went," Mr. Hancock says. "Ordinarily, you lay tiles but they are usually square. These tiles are all shapes and sizes. Every row is curved.
"Initially, I was concerned how we were going to create that curve, but these tiles were designed and detailed in such a way that they just did it themselves. They seemed to have a life of their own. If we did the right thing – getting the two corners right – they did the right thing. It was just amazing."
The dome of the Shrine of the Bab "now shines in the plenitude of its splendour," observed the Universal House of Justice in its message.
"This is really something unique," Haifa's Mayor Yona Yahav told guests celebrating the completion of the restoration project, "in this city, in Israel - in fact in the world."
The Mayor of Haifa, Advocate Yona Yahav, addressed guests at a celebratory reception to mark the completion of the restoration of the Shrine of the Bab. "This is really something unique," said Mr. Yahav. "in this city, in Israel - in fact in the world." Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
The Shrine of the Bab as seen from its western gardens, early in the morning of Tuesday 12 April 2011, shortly after its unveiling. The building's interior capacity has now almost doubled with the preparation of three new rooms to receive pilgrims and visitors for worship. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
The Shrine of the Bab viewed from the complex of Baha'i administrative buildings on Mount Carmel. New techniques had to be developed to replace the Shrine's 11,790 golden tiles, in more than 120 different shapes and sizes. Master mason Bruce Hancock from New Zealand described the restored Shrine as "an awesome sight." Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
The Shrine of the Bab was originally built in 1909. The golden-domed superstructure was completed in 1954. More than 50,000 man-hours were spent on the restoration of the Shrine's stonework alone. Every square centimetre of the building's exterior was checked and restored. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
Restoration of the Shrine of the Bab’s original balustrades involved remaking many pieces that were beyond repair, protecting them against moisture, regilding, and developing a system for sectional removal for future repairs. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
An interior view of the drum of the Shrine of the Bab, showing elements of the new structure designed to strengthen the building against earthquakes. New heavy steel bracings connect the reinforced ringbeam to the original concrete piers of the superstructure. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
The Shrine of the Bab as seen from its southern terraced gardens, early in the morning of Tuesday 12 April 2011, shortly after its unveiling after two years of restoration and conservation work. Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre photo. All rights reserved.
04-12-2011, 08:53 PM #1
Beauty of restored Shrine set to dazzle visitors and pilgrims"O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved."
04-13-2011, 09:47 AM #2
Bahais unveil their newly renovated shrine that is World Heritage site in Israel
By Associated Press, Tuesday, April 12, 8:37 AM
HAIFA, Israel — Followers of the Bahai faith unveiled their newly renovated holy site on the coast of Israel on Tuesday, drawing attention to one of the Holy Land’s lesser-known religions.
The renovation of the Shrine of the Bab, a U.N.-designated World Heritage site, lasted two-and-a-half-years and cost $6 million dollars, according to the Bahai leadership.
The structure has been refitted and strengthened to withstand an earthquake, and the building’s dome — the most distinctive feature of the landscape in the Mediterranean port city of Haifa — has been covered with 11,790 new gold-glazed porcelain tiles.
The Bahai religion has roots in 19th century Iran. The man known to believers as the Bab, or “gate,” and venerated as a prophet was executed for heresy in 1850 and later buried in Haifa. Today, the faith claims between 5 and 6 million adherents worldwide.
In Haifa, the domed Bahai shrine is positioned on a densely populated hillside, at the midpoint of a striking green strip of manicured gardens that cuts up the slope from top to bottom.
A Bahai engineer from California, Saeid Samadi, oversaw the project. Samadi was born in Iran, where Bahais have long suffered persecution for their beliefs and where the Bahai faith was declared illegal after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Samadi said much of the renovation work was carried out free of charge by Bahai volunteers. “The spirit of it was more important than the actual work,” he said.
While the three world religions that have historically vied for control of the Holy Land — Islam, Christianity and Judaism — venerate Jerusalem, the Bahais are alone in centering their faith in Haifa, which is known more for its factories and busy port than for religious sentiment. Around 750,000 people visited the Haifa shrine last year, the Bahais say.
They maintain a second site, the faith’s holiest, a short drive to the north in the Israeli coastal city of Acre. The Acre site marks the tomb of the religion’s founder, Baha’u’llah, who was imprisoned in the city by the Ottoman Turks and died there in 1892."O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved."
04-14-2011, 08:02 PM #3
The Jerusalem Post
Baha’is unveil renovated Shrine of the Bab in Haifa
By JONAH MANDEL
Mount Carmel building restored, dome gets almost 12,000 new tiles.
The golden glint was returned to Haifa’s most famous hillside on Tuesday, when the Baha’i community unveiled its Shrine of the Bab, restored with a fortified structure and adorned with a newly gilded roof.
Located in the center of meticulously gardened terraces leading up the northern slope of Mount Carmel, the shrine is the second holiest place for members of the Baha’i faith and marks the site where the remains of the Baha’i founding prophet, the Bab, were reinterred in 1909.
In 1954, the construction of the building’s superstructure and golden dome was completed. But the weather conditions on the Haifa mountaintop – which include a concoction of strong sun, wind and salty moisture from the sea – took their toll on the golden tiles, which over the years lost their luster. The need to protect the shrine from earthquakes also helped to galvanize the leadership of the religious community, with international membership estimated at over 5 million, to undertake a thorough renovation of their holy site.
It might have been the three years of careful planning and consultations led by Saeid Samadi, the Iranian- born Californian project architect and manager, that resulted in the actual work taking two-and-a-half years, significantly less than the five to six years that had been projected, and costing $6 million.
An international team of restoration staff and volunteers set the 11,790 new tiles on the dome, reinforced the building’s structure and went over every centimeter of the old building, fixing and restoring whatever was needed.
“The new golden tiles are five to six times more resilient to the local conditions than the old ones were,” Samadi said of the Portuguese-manufactured porcelain pieces of varying sizes, covered with a gold-glazed solution. “They should last another 200 to 300 years.”
To Samadi, no less important than the actual work on the shrine were the “spirit of unity and friendships among the peoples of different races, nations, religions” who were involved in the renovation.
“This project doesn’t just represent a building, it is much more than that,” he said.
The Haifa shrine, which along with the Shrine of Baha’u’llah near Acre has been inscribed as a site of “outstanding universal value” on the UNESCO World Heritage list, drew some 760,000 tourists in 2010, according to Baha’i information.
It was in 1863 that the Baha’u’llah declared himself the religious leader who would bring peace and prosperity, as per the Persian Bab’s prophecy from 1844.
The Baha’u’llah sentiment was counter to the Islamic tenet that Muhammad was the last prophet. Unlike the Bab, who was executed by the Persian regime in 1850 for his religious beliefs, the Baha’u’llah was spared death due to his family’s prominence, but forced out of his native Persia, and in 1868 he and his family reached the Turkish penal colony of Acre, where he died and was buried, making the city the faith’s holiest site.
While the monotheistic religion’s spiritual and administrative centers are located in Haifa and Acre, there is no Israeli Baha’i community, following a clear directive issued by the Baha’u’llah. Last month, local dignitaries were part of the hundreds of well-wishers at the festive reception in Jerusalem marking the Baha’i new year. The “Naw Rúz,” as it is called in Persian, is celebrated on March 21, the first day of spring.
In his address, Dr. Albert Lincoln, secretary-general of the Baha’i International Community, expressed the hope that the current ferment in North Africa and the Middle East would result in more freedom for the Baha’i community, as well as for the general public, in those countries."O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved."
04-14-2011, 08:05 PM #4
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