The Challenge: Provide Detailed Survey Measurements and Documentation to Restore an Iconic Architectural Gem

The Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL., was the first pre-cast paneled concrete building in the world. It took 30 years to build the 20-story structure, which was completed in 1953. The nine-sided temple is surrounded by terraces, stairs and walks, and nine gardens, with fountains, reflecting pools and beautiful and varied landscaped areas. In addition to being on the National Register of Historic places and a prominent Chicago-area landmark, the Baha’i temple was also recently named as one of the seven wonders of Illinois.

Compass was entrusted with the site surveying for the temple’s $30 million restoration, a project that required extraordinary care, detail and accuracy.

The Solution: Detailed and Accurate Survey Work, Responsiveness, and Committed Professionals

Compass’ first task was to provide an extremely detailed topographic survey of the existing site conditions. Of particular importance was the location of all existing vegetation and landscaping of nine garden areas. In addition to locating and mapping visible improvements such as walks, paths, stairs and drainage structures, Compass located and mapped individual plants shrubs, and bushes. The edged grass lines demarcating areas between dirt, mulch, sod and landscaping were also located and mapped. Individual major trees were located and mapped along with all individual shrubs and plantings. All survey data was formatted to incorporate the landscape architecture information relating to species, size and condition of existing plant material.

Compass’ next task was to establish building survey control for the demolition, removal and replacement of the old concrete terraces, stairways and retaining walls. The footprint of the existing stairways, terraces and retaining walls is a series of complex curves, reverse curves and radii. In other words, there are no “straight” lines. Compass staked and marked the new locations of those features, a process made more difficult because survey control points were constantly removed and destroyed during the construction process.

Renovating a landmark temple that took 30 years to build and that carries immense religious and historical importance demands extraordinary care, attention to detail, and flexibility. By understanding not only the needs of other professionals involved in the project, including engineers, architects and contractors, but the concerns and wishes of the end client, Compass was able to help guide the project to successful and efficient completion with care and professionalism.

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