22 January 2009

The Modern Traditional Draper Temple

I braved the unhealthy polluted Utah air this evening to visit the Draper Temple as part of the public open house. It was very well organized and not too crowded, which was enjoyable. The Temple is quite small in its footprint - very compact, but grand in its height, which seems especially appropriate nestled against the backdrop of mountains. These vertical and narrow proportions, a nice modern touch, were reflected in all the exterior massing and even in the Celestial room of the temple. This verticality was especially well represented in the windows and doors, giving us a strong and clear statement of the overall design with crisp rectangular shapes repeated at various scales.

Unfortunately this beautiful statement was in no way reflected in the other interior detailing and ornamentation of the temple. The coffered ceilings, gold leafing, rounding chandeliers, trim moulding pieces and decorative paneling all felt forced, as though from an entirely different building than that of the strong exterior massing, vertical proportionality, and window/door treatment previously described. In other words, based on the exterior, I would have expected a completely different interior, in both the shaping of space with ceilings and stairs down to the smallest details.

This unusual mixing of modern and traditional elements throughout the building left me in a limbo of sorts. The Draper temple says to me that it remains fully entrenched in tradition and the past, outwardly wants to be accepted and current, but is unsure of how these two can or should blend together. Clearly the past is important to us, and always will be, but at the same time we feel the need to move on as a people into the future of a new world. We have a foot in the past and a foot in the future, and both are pulling in opposite directions. So how does tradition co-exist with progress and change? The answer to this question based on the Draper temple could be summed up as 'awkwardly' or 'in a forced manner', which ends up being a reflection of our culture and the message we are sharing with the world.

Interestingly enough, after the tour, I was directed to the adjacent cultural hall where refreshments and formal presentations were set up. All the exhibits around the room were designed in a traditional manner with various shades of warm browns and crown mouldings except for the first, which utilized task lighting, glass panels, sleek metal frames, and a cool bright blue color palette. It was one of the most modern exhibits I have seen in an LDS church building, and like the temple just toured, stood out as inappropriately as the ornamentation did in an otherwise modern temple.

Successfully answering the question of how tradition should co-exist with modernity - in built form - can and will give us greater clarity into who we are as a people, where we are heading in the future, and I believe will ultimately lead people closer to our Creator.

Draper Utah Temple, Window by Altus Photo Design


CatherineWO said...

What an interesting post! I am not an architect, but I think I understand what you are saying. Now I'm anxious to see the building my self.

Dave said...

Brother "Green"!

I am new to your blog and will spend some time with the other posts. I was attracted by a reference to green mormon architect in the lds blogosphere and look forward to seeing your comments. I really enjoyed your view of the mix of modern and traditional and look forward to seeing the Draper temple for myself some day. It would be interesting to see if the inside of the Hong Kong temple is more consistently modern inside to match its exterior small footprint and elongated height.

I wonder if you have any information on green aspects of the Draper building beyond the smaller footprint? In general, the Church's move to smaller, distributed temples is a classic, macro green step. What kind of micro green steps is the church taking? Climate controls, lighting, etc. Anything in the Temples beyond what is in the Ward buildings?

Perhaps by the time a temple might be built in my home town of Bend, OR, we could have some showcase green architecture as part of the design. Of course, we'll need to see much growth in the Church in Central OR to even get to put forward this hope. LEED Gold?

Dave Woodland
Bend, OR

green mormon architect said...

Catherine - I actually want to go back myself - during the day this time - to see how the natural light is in the building. When we went it was in the evening. There are lots of high windows in the Celestial room and I'm curious to see how it looks.

green mormon architect said...

Thanks so much for your comments and for stopping by. What a great place to live! When I was in Oregon, we did a high adventure over near Bend and stayed at Little Lava Lake for a week - fabulous place. Went through some of the caves, biking, etc. I would love to do that again.

You bring up some great points. I don't know about the Hong Kong Temple, but will look into it. I am also curious about the new Temple in Philadelphia. This will also be a brand new building on an empty site right in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. So I am curious to see what they will do with this. My Bishop is actually also an architect for the Church, but he works on the Temple side. So I'll have to ask him.

I don't have any 'green info' on the Temples, but significant steps are being taken on the meetinghouses as of right now. We are doing a redesign of the Heritage plan and building 3-5 prototypes of it this year. They will all be LEED certified, so that is a great first step. Over the next 90 days, we'll be working out the details, but I'm crossing my fingers that we are successful. I even heard my boss use the words "carbon footprint" in a meeting this morning. And they are VERY interested in energy conservation and saving money. So slowly the message is getting through.

I welcome your comments and suggestions on the site any time.

Amanda said...

HAHA, is this Orwellian LDS? LDSPEAK?

Brett said...

I have memories of seeing interior pictures of the Hong Kong Temple...it is a precursor to the Draper Temple. Remember that President Hinckley was very traditional and favoured a more classical style. It's also very cramped from what I could see in the photos.