Sunday, November 2, 2014

Preservation Predictions: Remodeling the Provo Temple

Note: The 'Preservation Predictions' series examines what historic Mormon buildings may be renovated/preserved in the future. For all of the posts in this series, click here.

  Luminous rays of early sun
Pierce eagerly and seek
A solemn and a precious spot
There, just below Squaw Peak,
To irradiate, set sparkling,
A brilliant gold and white:
Our gleaming Provo Temple,
Each morning’s bright delight.
(Val Wilcox, "Jewel in a Valley Setting," Ensign, February 1972.)

The Provo Temple, along with its 'sister temple' in Ogden, departed drastically from the architecture of prior temples when they were dedicated. When it was announced that Ogden would undergo a dramatic change of appearance, rumors began that Provo would soon follow. The Church promptly and has consistently denied those rumors, saying that there are no plans for such a renovation. I'm not sure if that means one will never happen, though.

The Provo Temple will need to be remodeled, eventually. I agree with this letter in hoping that the appearance of the Provo Temple not be altered in the future. I particularly like the quotes he shares:

"Preservation is not simply about saving the most beautiful things," Columbia University's architecture school dean Mark Wigley told the The New York Times in a report on the debate to save half-century-old "ugly" modernist buildings. "It's about saving those objects that are an important part of our history..."

"You have to focus on the significance of the building and not its style, because styles will come and go," said John Hildreth of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Remodeled Ogden Temple (Image Source)

Not everyone agrees, though--the Daily Herald reported that they surveyed nearly 800 people on whether the Provo Temple should be redesigned as Ogden was. 51% of respondents said yes.

I know that the Provo Temple looks different--my MTC companion called it the "cupcake on the hill" when we went up to visit it. I also admit that I have attended the Provo Temple more than any other temple, and so have a deeper emotional connection to it. But why do we as members feel the need to modify our historical structures?

The Ogden Temple wasn't remodeled just to change its appearance. Scott Haskins noted that there were three main reasons: It suffered from a "perpetual mold problem" in its basement because of the high water table, it was built on a fault line and was seismically unsafe, and it was doing 35 marriages a year. (I'm not sure how many marriages the Provo Temple does, but I'm fairly certain it's a bit more than that, as I've passed several weddings parties on my way in. I'd estimate 2-3 a week.)

Still, the signs are encouraging that such a remodel is not going to happen. For the past couple of years (this year being an exception), the Provo Temple has been closed for 6-8 weeks twice a year, instead of the usual 2 weeks. This has been for special renovation work--more extensive work than is usually done on a temple, including a new awning. They've also completely redone the restrooms on the main floor (so much that the doorway to get to the restrooms changed spots--when I came back after it had changed, I almost ran into the wall where it used to be), and added a custom mural to the front of the chapel that depicts Christ and His disciples. These aren't things that are typically done if you're planning on completely renovating a temple soon. I'm not sure if the Church is trying to do as much as they can without totally closing the temple, but they've been able to do a lot.

I hope the architecture of the Provo Temple sticks around for a long time--enough so that future generations can also see it and learn to appreciate the unique architecture that sets the temple apart.

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