Mormon Architecture

Jonathan Kland has a BS in Construction Management from BYU and an MA in Architecture from the University of Florida. From 2008 to 2010, he was an architect for the LDS Church, where he developed a new series of Standard Plan meetinghouses for the US/Canada. Called the Independence, this plan includes eight versions, each of which is constructed in linked components, allowing for easy expansion to a larger phase as needed. The first of these was recently dedicated adjacent to the Kansas City Temple. His blog documenting and celebrating outstanding Mormon architecture is ldsarchitecture.wordpress.com.


For bold new ideas in ecclesiastical architecture, the world might well look to the Mormon Church where there are no narrowly prescribed conceptions nor pre-determined structural plans, where the only limitations placed upon the architect are the canons of beauty, good taste, usefulness and the boundaries of his own mind as guided and directed by revelations to fulfill the job to which he is assigned by proper authority. [1]

So stated Joseph H Weston, in a 1949 publication sponsored by the Presiding Bishopric titled ‘Mormon Architecture.’ While it is most interesting to hear this statement in light of where we are today, I would venture to say that the greatest architectural legacy of the LDS Church lies in our meetinghouses. With the majority of buildings now using standard designs, even the recent past held a breadth of style, material usage and detailing as broad as the American architectural landscape. As such, the history of LDS meetinghouse architecture is in large part also the history of American architecture.

What makes a church beautiful, special, or sacred? Is it the art, windows or steeple? It’s uniqueness? Aesthetic qualities such as materials and detailing? The challenge with architecture is that there is no single answer to these questions of beauty. Every generation developed principles and styles that they believed exemplified beauty. And each one of our buildings, in its own way, is an attempt at an answer.

As one of the only remaining texts on Roman architecture to survive, Vitruvius and his ten books on architecture have influenced over two thousand years of Western architecture.

Vitruvius advocates the study and imitation of nature as one of the most important pursuits of an architect. For nature leads to beauty, which is fundamental to the practice of architecture once durability and utility have been achieved in a building. These three conditions – a famous triad at the root of architectural design – of durability, utility and beauty, were to be applied through rigorous laws learnt from nature: every aspect of an architectural endeavor was to be harmonized according to such natural principles, which were truly rational according to Vitruvius. [2]

This harmony with the natural world is still a quest that continues today. Several examples of imitating nature anciently were in the use of columns and low lighting levels to imitate the forest and by having temples created in the proportions and modularity of the perfect human body. Just as the body isn’t complete without all its members, buildings need all parts to be complete, whole, and in perfect harmony. This natural yearning for the complete and perfect in buildings contributed to ancient views of beauty in architecture. These principles had great influence over architectural education and training through the Middle Ages, Renaissance and continuing into the 19th Century.

Early Mormon communities drew from the styles and design options of their time, including the many Revivalist styles popular through the 1800’s. “The first public structure in a new Utah community would usually be a meetinghouse, a structure which, like its early Puritan prototypes, was intended for multiple uses in a community in which all activities had their sacred meaning.” [3] The late 19th century through the turn of the century saw the emergence of many American revival styles incorporating historical styles from the past. As these styles flourished, the influence spread to the Church, producing some of the most beautiful buildings in our Church history. Vitruvian principles were used to achieve stunning results such as the Paris and Bountiful Tabernacles, Salt Lake 2nd Ward, Spring City Ward, Forest Dale Ward, and the Logan 1st Ward.

Simultaneous to the rise of this period-style architecture, the modern era saw its beginnings with architects who were looking to the future, rather than the past, with more progressive, modernist styles and a rejection of historical revivalism. The Bauhaus school of building established by Walter Gropius in Europe taught the art of the complete building in unity as a whole and with all its parts as one. However, far more popular in America, beginning in the first few decades of the 20th Century, was the emergence of the Prairie style. With an emphasis on the horizontal and integration with the landscape, this style caught on with meetinghouse architects of the time, producing such buildings as the Clinton Ward, Ensign Ward, Ogden Deaf Branch, Ogden 13th Ward, and the Parowan 3rd Ward. Ultimately, Gropius, Wright and the Modern movement were seeking the same ideals as Vitruvius, but using a different palette of materials, much of which centered on the role of ornamentation. The battle between our historical past and a modern progress looking to the future would continue for many years with LDS architects firmly on both sides of the debate.

After World War I, due to increasing membership and building expenses, LDS Church leaders created a centralized architectural department where standardized plans could be produced in order to erect meetinghouses more quickly and less expensively. Called The Bureau, much of the work was done by Joseph Don Carlos Young. As an architect that had already done a great deal of work for the Church, Young looked to the past in his Bureau designs, all of which were done in a Colonial Revivalist style. Based on an innovative design of a U-shaped chapel and amusement hall with an entry at the rear between the two, this standard plan, nicknamed the ‘Colonel’s Twins’ or the Young Twins, was not mandatory, but was presented as an option to the wards. [4] This would signal an important precursor to the standard repetitive use of plans that would be embraced to a much larger scale 30 years later. Examples of Bureau plans include the Ogden 19th Ward, Iona Ward, Whittier Ward, Nibley Park Ward and Belvedere Ward.
Even with the Bureau, wards that were able to would still hire their own architects and design their own buildings in order to meet the unique challenges that were appropriate for their community. As the Great Depression set in, more and more wards would use member labor. In spite of the challenging financial situation, spectacular meetinghouse designs were to come out of the depression era with a great deal of time and sacrifice being put into each building. Two spectacular examples include the Ogden 4th ward and the Lincoln ward.

My interest in LDS architecture began with a class taken at BYU given by Paul Anderson. This class helped open my eyes to the variety of designs in LDS buildings as well as the virtually unknown heritage we have in our buildings. A graduate degree in architecture later, along with working for the LDS Church for several years, helped spark my current project of compiling and researching LDS meetinghouses. In the next post, I’ll discuss the move through modernism, the effects of correlation on meetinghouse design and the link all this had with America’s move to the suburbs and embrace of postmodernism. My final post will then explore several excellent meetinghouse designs in detail and talk about the current and future state of LDS Meetinghouses.

——————————-
[1] Bradley, Martha Sonntag. The Church and Colonel Saunders: Mormon Standard Plan Architecture. MA thesis. Brigham Young University, 1981. 160.
[2] Tavernor, Robert. Introduction to Vitruvius: On Architecture, by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. Trans. Richard Schofield. New York: Penguin Group, 2009. xviii.
[3] Williams, Peter W. Houses of God: Region, Religion, and Architecture in the United States. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997. 221.
[4] Jackson, Richard W. Places of Worship: 150 Years of Latter-day Saint Architecture. Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003. 176-78.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this great write up. While I understand the rationale behind the standardization of our meeting houses, I fear we have lost something in the process as well. Not necessarily a unique issue to us, but it does reflect the systemic issues now facing suburbia in general, which happens to be where a lot of our most “severely functional architecture” (as Bushman put it) is located. It would be interesting to discuss LDS architecture in terms of how it relates (or fails to relate) to the context of its location and how that, in turn, relates to how we are “shaping Zion” at the community scale.

  2. Fantastic. The ldsarchitecture blog is one of my favorite websites, for good reason.

    A few years ago Paul Anderson gave the Presidential Address at MHA on church architecture in California. It was one of the best lectures I’ve attended, and I’ve maintained an interest in the topic ever since. Looking forward to your future contributions.

  3. Just curious but what happened to the window area in Mormon churches? As a child I attended a pre airconditioned meeting house with a lot of window area, windows that open and and a lot of natural sun light. Today’s buildings have only a small fraction of that window area it feels artificial being inside them especialy on a nice day, I often feel like a mole making my way around the crowed inside hallway. Also side pews that face straight ahead are uncomfortable to sit in because they don’t face the speaker it would be nice to have pews laid out in a chevron design and tier them so you can see over the heads in front of you.

  4. Very interesting!

    Can you comment at some point on how LDS ward buildings reflect our theological concerns and interests? Or is it all “just” utility, beauty, nature, the past, future, etc. ?

    Mogs

  5. Ben P., I too was there for that Paul Anderson lecture; it was fantastic.

  6. Not Much to add, except I’ve been enjoying your site for some time.

  7. Looking forward to future posts. I’d love to hear more about where things are headed. I’m an architect who has done a Legacy building, a heritage building, and a nonstandard 8 ward university building. Looking at the church aec website, the styles are evolving, I’d love to hear more about what is driving those changes. I love your blog and have been watching it from the start.

  8. Fantastic stuff. Looking to the other posts. In early Mormonism, meetings were in homes, school buildings and outdoors. I can imagine a great “nature” chapel, tree trunks and branches as support pillars, pews with . . . never mind.

  9. Fantastic write-up. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

  10. Jeannine L. says:

    That picture above is our stake center. It is currently being “updated”, whatever that means. I just hope they leave all of the oak trim alone and figure out a better finish for the walls of the chapel, which are covered with very rough textured plaster. Also, I hope they do something with the pews. Uncomfortable like you wouldn’t believe.

  11. I very recently discovered the LDS Architecture blog and it’s quickly become one of my favorites.

  12. Zionssuburb says:

    After visiting the fascinating meetinghouse in El Paso, I’ve started following the blog as well. I am intimately involved with the newest prototype design here in Kansas City, near the temple being constructed. Which we have occupied now for 3 months. I hope to hear about some of the decision making… Why are stages back? etc…looking forward to it.

  13. This question may be a little off-topic, since it is not strictly about architecture, but I wonder if anyone knows why LDS chapels (not the entire meeting house) do not have pictures? I can understand that stained glass art may cost too much cheddar, but pictures of Jesus, for example, would certainly help visual learners (i.e., me) stay focused on the reason for the sacrament

  14. Even though an LDS chapel built in 2012 is generic, it’s a high-quality building that gentrifies the neighborhood. The grass, the brick, the steeple, it’s all an asset that improves a suburban street corner. I know of a sterile, generic, but solid and beautiful 2003 “Independence” Mormon chapel plopped down in a Mesa, Arizona slum that pretty much redeems the neighborhood.

  15. #14 – And gentrifying the neighborhood is something we should aspire to because…..?

  16. @Nicole

    Less crime, less drugs, less graffiti, less litter, less disease.

  17. @ JW
    That may (or may not in all cases) be true. But the associated rising property values spells displacement for the must vulnerable – likely the very people the chapel was built to serve.

  18. I’d be surprised if a regular LDS meetinghouse was capable of actually causing gentrification in a neighborhood. Not that they aren’t community assets, and I doubt they’d ever cause surrounding property values to decline, but claiming that LDS buildings have the ability to trigger shifts in the socio-economic profile of a neighborhood is probably a stretch.

  19. JamesM – I agree. I found the claim provocative for both the face-value of the claim and the social justice implications.

    That said, the blight associated with boarded up churches (demonations at large) is a large and looming visual and symbolic factor in declining inner-city neighborhoods. It always irritates me when I see this…. a building that is supposed to help the community actually adding to the decay. For instance, the Buffalo NY Catholic Diocese shuttered dozens of buildings about 5 years ago in already struggling neighborhoods, won’t rent them because then they might lose non-profit tax status, so they just sit as a visual and safety hazard.

    Luckily, I’ve seen very few LDS examples of this. The only exceptions seem to be former properties that are in poor shape.

    One interesting example is a chapel in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been told that this building (http://g.co/maps/e4h6c) was originally an LDS meetinghouse which sits on a corner near Ohio State University (9th & Indianola) where student ghetto meets public housing. It is tiny, so understandably it was sold to another church that keeps it in relatively decent shape. The current Institute building is less than 4 blocks away (12th, just west of Indianola see http://g.co/maps/u7xmf), a generic building shoehorned into a lot during the 1990s, etc. Makes me shake my head every time.

  20. Erin, I don’t know when the shift came, but I suspect ealry 20th century. There was some fantastic murals, paintings and stained glass in the nineteenth century chappels.

  21. Jim Donaldson says:

    A 1949 building in Denver, Colorado has a large LeConte Stewart Sermon on the Mount mural across the front of the chapel that was done in the early 1950s, I believe (before my time). The rumor mill says that it took a first presidency decision to avoid its removal during a building remodel in the 1980s. It is still there.

    There has been some very interesting church architecture in the past, but the oft-noted lack of sentimentalism (is that the right word?) about those historic properties, has resulted in much of it being torn down.

  22. JamesM – I will be briefly discuss the shaping of Zion at the community level in a future post. New Urbanism appears to be on the rise in the Church and that involves dense, walkable communities that seek to establish a better and more sustainable way of life. Current LDS projects of New Urbanism I am aware of are at City Creek, Daybreak, and there is one in Maryland and in Missouri.

  23. Chris Gordon says:

    @ Jim (21). I’m in Denver and would love to see this building. Which is it?

  24. Howard – Windows were largely cut out of meetinghouses during the 1970’s energy crisis and very few have been added back now. I will discuss this further in a future post. I like to think of the circular hallway in meetinghouses that is always crowded to a freeway beltway in the suburbs that always has a traffic jam. Just like adding more lanes isn’t the answer, widening the hallways doesn’t ever seem to help either. It could be avoided in meetinghouses if the flow of wards were properly directed through the design rather than just having everyone mash into each other. As for pews, there have been some interesting ideas tried over the years, which includes sloping floors, angled seating and even circular seating.

  25. Mogget – That is a fascinating question regarding theology in our buildings. I am struggling to come up with a response, but there are some interesting changes over time that shows doctrinal emphasis to me. For example, the sacrament table used to be at the center of the chapel with the pulpit to the side. To me this shows the central role of the sacrament in the meeting and the secondary role of the spoken word. Other early buildings had art work or the choir at the center with the pulpit to the side, emphasizing the role of the arts in our worship. I feel that the current design with the pulpit at the front is largely the result of correlation where the spoken word is now of prime importance over both the arts and the sacrament. At least, that is what the building forms say to me.

    Another idea that interests me involves our baptismal fonts in meetinghouses. This is the most important ordinance in meetinghouses and the design and placement of our fonts places baptism in secondary importance to not only the sacrament but even those baptisms performed for the dead in temples. What this says to me is that the renewing of baptismal covenants is of more importance than the initial baptism. It also says that the temple ordinances are a higher ideal than that of baptism in a meetinghouse, which is ultimately what the Church teaches. Conversely, the fonts in temples do not appear to follow the scriptural injunction to be a place “where the living are wont to assemble” as stated in D&C 128. They are very desirable places to worship in and to assemble in with no real feeling or reminiscence of death. Unfortunately I would say our meetinghouse fonts are more like places where the living are wont to assemble.

  26. lds architecture,
    Thank you for your response. I look forward to your future post and to getting more light into our buildings the concept of light plays such a key role in the gospel it is ironic and incongruent to ignore it in our architecture. Also if you have any input to the acoustics and audio system it would be great to actually understand the words of women and children when they speak especially when their voices go high or when they weep. The current design seems to be mid range only which generally works fine for adult males but often not for others.

  27. Erin – I don’t have the answer, but it was clearly a centralized decision that probably coincided with the introduction of standard plan designs. Even Bureau designs from the 1920′s had artwork in the Chapels. Today there are a great number of older buildings that had artwork in them from the beginning which have been allowed to retain their paintings or relief sculptures. Many of them even had the artwork commissioned specifically for their building, making it that much more unique and meaningful to the ward. So they have been grandfathered in while new buildings do not allow artwork in the Chapel for some reason. Also, even as late as the mid-century, quite a few buildings have decorative art glass in them that greatly adds to the character of the space as a special place of worship.

  28. Nicole, #19,

    I was in the YSA ward in Columbus. The building you indicate was the first LDS building in Columbus, and was built, I think, in the teens or 1920′s. (It is, by the way, tiny, as it was constructed for a small branch.) It would have been impossible to use it as the institute because it had been sold decades before there was an institute near the OSU campus. Indeed, it was sold because the location was frankly inconvenient for the members and had been simply outgrown for anything resembling the activities of a ward. There was, also, no way to expand it.

    The institute building is hardly generic. The first institute was actually a house, which the church started using in the 80′s. Then, a quite small building was constructed. We thoroughly outgrew that building by 2000, at which point an addition (three times, at least, the size of the original building) was designed, re-designed, and re-designed again (a process that took years…). And I’l be honest, for its purpose, it works great.

  29. Nicole #19

    To give a sense of the tininess of the Indianola building, I’m pretty sure that the RLDS church on E Tompkins, built around the same time, is larger. Of course, they are still able to use that building…

  30. Nicole – There are actually quite a few boarded up and abandoned LDS buildings in various locations. But that is interesting to hear about the buildings at Ohio State. The original Institute building is beautiful. Thank you for the link to it. Another Institute building at the University of Minnesota still makes me really sad. http://reubenscube.net/2010/07/u-of-m-institute-of-religion-building/. The interesting building the Church built was sold off and then the gorgeous religious building we bought was torn down for a very plain and soul-less building.

  31. Jonathan, it is great to see you doing some posts here. I love your LDS architecture blog. As for art in chapels…my husband has been on the planning commitee (as a member of the stake presidency) for a couple of buildings in the past twenty years, and with each, they have been specifically instructed that there is to be no artwork of any kind in the chapel, and they were given a very limited choice of what could be hung in the hallways and other rooms.
    I echo the concern over windowless chapels. For the past four years I have been attending church in an older building with wood framed windows on either side of the chapel. I recently started attending in a building with a very small chapel which has no windows and very poor lighting. It’s sooo depressing.

  32. TMD – I literally own a home (although now live across the country) within 6 blocks of both buildings in the University district of OSU. I am aware that the original Indianola building is tiny – a mere 1,672 sq ft. It was built for a branch at the time and I cannot confirm it ever being the Institute building. I also think I heard that it might have been replaced for a building on Riverside Dr (across the Olentangy river) which has also been abandoned in favor of meetinghouses in the suburbs.

    A quick search on the Franklin County Auditor website shows the Indianola property transferred to the Church on September 4th, 1928 and dates the building as 1930. There was someone in the ‘Riverside’ ward in the early 2000s that was a child when it was built and would talk about his family literally physically building the building; given the era, I’m sure that was the case. The Franklin County Auditor website confirms it hasn’t been owned by the church since 1959; meanwhile the park next door was taken over by the City (and therefore may have been available for expansion for the church as an Institute expansion) in the mid-1980s.

    I am also not saying that the current OSU institute building is not unique in function. It probably is. And I don’t doubt a lot of effort went into making it that way. But it isn’t anything to write home about architecturally. And it doesn’t really add a lot to the neighborhood. And I’d say that most people probably drive from outside the neighborhood to attend YSA wards (two I think currently) that meet there.

    In the meantime, as a non-student (faculty/professional couple with a kid), I used to have to drive within a block of BOTH buildings for an 11 mile, 15-20 minute drive including interstate driving to get to the building next to the Columbus Ohio temple – which, to the church’s credit, is actually in Columbus but barely.

    The meetinghouse next to the Columbus temple is probably fine for about half of that ward. But, it is a burden to get to for most inner-city members. That is actually the trend that drives me nuts…. selling off small (uniquely designed) buildings in the inner-city to consolidate membership into a big suburban building/ward, never mind that they often have limited transportation to those suburban buildings. I understand it is done for fellowship and building upkeep reasons, etc. As a confirmed urbanite, it still bugs me. The loss of history and architecture is just collateral damage.

  33. #30 – That U of Minn Institute building history is a TRAVESTY! Wow.

    I’m excited to see these guest posts and spent a lot of time pursuing your blog today. It is fun to see how many of the unique buildings I’ve happened upon over the years. As an Urban Studies academic, I find this all pretty fascinating. I also look forward to also hearing your take on the New Urbanism trend and what connection you’ve seen in the design/planning areas at SLC headquarters.

  34. My stepdaughter and her family live in Spring City. Her daughter and my daughter turned 8 just a few weeks apart and were baptised on the same day in that beautiful building. It made the day even more special for all of us.

  35. To continue the thread jack….

    According to the Franklin County Auditor, the current OSU Institute building looks to have bee acquired in 1977, build date (so maybe the first major addition/remodel?) of 1990, and adjacent parking lots picked up in 2000 and 2002.

  36. Nicole,
    Interesting…some further info…
    The small building was never used as an institute. [I know the son of the first bishop in Columbus, indeed, in Ohio since the saints left Kirtland.]
    The building acquired in 77 was a house, used until the building was completed in 90. This building was then added onto in 2005 or so. I attended one of the YSA wards there from 2001-2008; the bulk of those wards actually came from the immediate area; I lived within easy walking distance of the building for 6 of my 7 years in grad school, which was quite nice. Relatively few people come from outside of the university’s environs, if that’s any comfort to you.

    Interestingly, there was a desire to do more with the building–put on a steeple, etc., but the neighborhood commission there was adamant against it. They didn’t want to ‘alter the character of the neighborhood.’ Which is funny, if you know that street and the streets around it. Since you lived in the area, you know that pretty much nothing can be done to improve the character of 12th, except to tear down all the houses and start again.

    Also, I can understand the church’s reluctance to build in urban areas. When I lived in Tennessee, I was told that the church had closed an old stake center in Chattanooga (I think) after the high council had been held up at gunpoint for the second time. [Could be a rumor, but, there you are...]

  37. Jim Donaldson says:

    Chris (#23)

    The building is the Crestmoor Ward chapel, formerly the Denver Stake center, located at 740 Hudson in East Denver.

  38. Geoff - A says:

    I find some of the best buildings those that are not of a standard design; such as the chapel in Yellowstone village. There is also one in Leura in the Blue Mountains in Australia.

    This chapel has its baptismal font in the foyer, has arched ceilings in the hallway and a reflecting bowl/rainwater gutter which reflects light (with water patterns when wet) onto the chapel ceiling.

    Thought you would probably not be aware of the Leura chapel which was designed by a Sydney architect and received awards, such that there are regular visits by archeticture students.

  39. I meet at a building in Gaithersburg, Maryland that is quite amazing, especially given that it was built sometime around 1995. I’ve thought for a while that it deserves a write up with lots of pictures, but for now here is one: link. You can see four of the seven huge chapel windows. The Young Women’s room and the Relief Society room on opposite front corners of the building have similar windows and ten foot ceilings. It was meant to be a landmark building for a lanmark neighborhood. The bishop at the time of construction said that there was continual interaction with Salt Lake City, and approval from President Hinckley for some things such as the scriptures engraved on the outside wall from John and Mosiah.

    Perhaps it is my ward’s fault that there aren’t more buildings like this one. It’s such a lovely structure, and we are such ordinary saints, just like those meeting in any other building.

  40. For example, the sacrament table used to be at the center of the chapel with the pulpit to the side. To me this shows the central role of the sacrament in the meeting and the secondary role of the spoken word.

    Thanks, lds architecture, for your courteous response. This ^ is one of the things I have read about on those odd occasions when I read about other Christian architecture. Supposedly part of the Catholic / Protestant divide in some circumstances. Anyway, I shall be watching for the rest of your articles!

    Mogs

  41. Jonathan, great article. Thanks for giving us some insight into church architecture!

  42. @ John Mansfield

    Is that a Mormon chapel or the library at Harvard Business School?

  43. 39, That is a gorgeous building. I wish they’d send the scouts out to take down all those election signs though.

  44. Steve G., it was election day, and the building was being used for polling. (link)

  45. The Chapel at Gaithersburg is the best LDS example I am aware of where New Urbanism principles were used as part of the entire development. That includes the meetinghouse, which was part of the community master plan. The others I am aware of involve Temples. One of my favorite features were the beehive sculptures on each entry side of the brick fence. I have actually mentioned this building in a future post as well. Any chance you can get me some good interior photos of the building, John? When I was there, I wasn’t able to get inside, so the best I could do was pictures looking into the Chapel and Lobby from outside.

  46. Is that the Seneca Stake Center? That is my home stake, but I graduated high school in 1994.

    I love the LDS Architecture Blog. It is truly one of the gems off the Bloggernacle.

  47. LDS Architecture, call me some time at 240-751-5108 and we can discuss pictures.

    Chris H., no it’s not; it’s the Kentlands chapel. The Seneca stake center is on Clopper Road, a bit past Germantown Road, four miles NNW from my ward’s building. The Kentlands chapel is a half mile east of Quince Orchard High School. Units that meet there are the Kentlands Ward and the Montgomery (Chinese) Branch, both in the Washington, D.C. Stake.

  48. Kentlands! That sounds familiar. They bulit much of this, including the Stake Center, while I was on my mission. It is all fuzzy. However, this is making me homesick.

  49. I have strongly mixed feelings about LDS architecture.

    The temples, on the main, are gorgeous. I do tend to prefer forward-thinking, integral designs (like the San Diego temple or the Jerusalem temple … er … center) or context-sensitive designs (like the adobe Newport Beach temple) to the neo-classical-esque throwbacks of the newest templates (like all the new temples in Utah … or even all the very old temples in Utah). But in every case, the aesthetics are carefully considered, the function well-accommodated and the craftsmanship is beyond reproach.

    BYU on the other hand …

    I very nearly vomit every time I drive onto BYU’s campus and see the new Gordon B. Hinckley building. It’s an abomination. An abomination. It has no stylistic integrity, pulling in tired elements of every poorly-informed architectural fashion of the last fifty years. It’s an oversized tudor with, with a (fake) clock tower, built of orange brick, on a foundation of Jerusalem stone, with a fired-tile roof covered in copper sprinkles. Architecture simply does not get worse than that. I would take the (admittedly unattractive but at least integral) 60s-70s design of much of BYU’s campus over the bile being piled high in these last two decades.

    And then, we have the meeting houses …

    A blight in every neighborhood. Functional, yes. But that’s where it ends. No glory to God, here. Just a cinderblock box made worse by ill-informed and ill-advised neoclassical burps. They seem to embody a sort of big-box commoditization of religion, a top-down approach where Christianity is delivered in neat, identical little shrink-wrapped packages to be consumed identically by individuals made identical by their consumption. George Orwell couldn’t have done it better himself.

    I would sooner return to the days when every LDS congregation was responsible for raising money and constructing its own chapel, which – because of the involvement, sacrifice and uniqueness of the group – would naturally be raised up to the glory of God, and would represent the faith (and artistry – or lack thereof, yes) of the community.

    It’s less efficient without the central planning ; it’s messier when individuals are taking responsibility for the expression of their own faith. But didn’t we reject top-down efficiency when we sided against Lucifer and his Plan for Everyone?

  50. I will add, incidentally, that the new Conference Center at (the now-larger) Temple Square is one of the most beautiful buildings — anywhere on earth — of the last two decades. It manages to maintain its integrity while *subtly* referencing styles of other periods (particularly those found elsewhere on Temple Square). I can sit and stare at that building for any length of time, and only ever feel heightened respect for it.

  51. Miles R:

    I don’t think you know what you’re asking for if you want to go back to the days when congregations built their own buildings. I’ve been in at least one ward where the struggles necessary to build their meeting house (in the late 70′s early 80′s) were still regularly mentioned in sunday school decades later. In a less-than-well-off ward, building assessments were hard indeed.

    In areas where there is not already a building on every street corner, a return to decentralized building would be a serious burden on the saints. I’d rather we make our sacrifices for things more lasting than ward buildings–especially since the growth of the kingdom should make ward buildings obsolete [from small branch building to stake center, and maybe even tabernacle!]

  52. @ Miles R.

    Temple architecture is a mixed bag. President Hinckley was the prophet of my coming of age years, and I really liked him. But I think he fumbled the ball with the mini-temple concept. The mini-temples built in Midwest cities from 1998-2005 have no grandeur. A temple should be a landmark. A mini-temple is less eye-catching than a stake center. I’m glad the Church seems to have abandoned the mini-temple concept. The new Philadelphia Temple looks promising.

    BYU’s architecture is a real shame. Too much beige brick. Too much aluminum. It looks like Pyongyang, North Korea. I can understand how buildings like this went up during the 1950s and 1960s. But the Hinckley Building in 2006? Shameful.

    The Conference Center is okay. It was designed by a non-Mormon. He deliberately made it low-key / hidden so that the Salt Lake Temple would remain the dominant structure on Temple Square

  53. J.W.

    As a beneficiary of the mini-temples, I quite appreciate them. I’d rather be able to go to a nearby temple than have a ‘landmark’ 200 miles away.

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