Sunday, February 6, 2011

LDS Temple Courtyards and Atriums

Mormon temples are usually surrounded with beautiful gardens giving a place for anyone to sit and enjoy the temple and the beauty of nature.  A few temples have an atrium or courtyard giving a special experience.  I want to discuss a few of these and hope that you will comment and tell me about any temples that I've missed.

The Portland Oregon Temple
I loved it when I went to the Portland Oregon Temple and found a small atrium just inside the front doors.  In the photo to the left (from Google Maps) the atrium is on the north (top) of the temple.  It is those two sections with a glass roof in between a spire and a small dome.  The atrium was really nice and was open to the public.  This came in handy for me as I was able to show it to a friend who isn't LDS.  Non-members frequently feel left out of the temple, and having this nice garden that we let them go into is a way to help them feel welcome.  The temple atrium is filled with beautiful plants.  Pictures of the atrium can be seen here, here, here, and here.

The Las Vegas Nevada Temple
The Las Vegas Nevada Temple uses the same floor plan as the Portland Oregon Temple and consequently it also has an interior garden.  This time I'm calling it a courtyard because it is open air.  In the areal photo the courtyard is around the spire with the Angel Moroni (this is on the right center of the photo.  That green patch is a bunch of plants in a beautiful garden including fountains.  While the grounds are also beautiful and filled with gardens, the courtyard, by its enclosed nature, is a quieter garden to sit in and contemplate.  Again it is open to the public.  I couldn't find pictures of the interior (and unfortunately I didn't take any photos on my several visits to this temple).

The San Diego California Temple
Unfortunately, I have never been to the San Diego California Temple.  I have read about it and know that it has an atrium.  In the photo on the left the atrium is between the two towers and is an eight sided star shape (technically the symbol is The Seal of Melchizedek).  From what I've read, the atrium is just outside the Celestial Room (possibly by the sealing rooms?).  For this reason, it is not open to the public but provides a wonderful scenic garden to inspire patrons to the temple.


Bountiful Utah Temple
The first temple I ever went inside was the Bountiful Utah Temple.  I went there for the temple open house before I was 12.  I have since been there many times.  One unique feature of this temple is the courtyard/atrium near the baptistery.  It is underground, yet open air.  On the level above cars can drive around the atrium making it the center of a sort of round about.  In the picture it is the center of the circle on the top.  If you park in the underground parking  lot you enter the temple just before the atrium and then walk around the atrium and finally get to the recommend desk, meaning this atrium is open to the general public.  Here is a picture of it.  Here is another showing how it is beautiful even in the winter.  The atrium is circular with glass all around.  I always loved going to the Bountiful Temple to do baptisms because I got to walk around this atrium.

The Salt Lake Temple (a long while ago)
Most people don't realize that the Salt Lake Temple used to have a greenhouse built in.  The room was attached to the garden room.  In fact, early plans of the temple had the entire garden room as a greenhouse attached to the temple on one side.  Real plants were planned to fill the room making it a literal garden.  The completed temple had the garden room inside the temple with a painted mural of the Garden of Eden.  The garden room originally also had a greenhouse attached to it seen here allowing real plants to be in the garden room.  The greenhouse is on the right side of the photo.  You will need to look closely as it isn't very big and resembles a small shack attached to the temple.  Ultimately this is probably the best use of a temple atrium because it is used to reinforce and facilitate the teachings of the endowment.  Architecturally it never quite matched the temple exterior, which is probably why it was removed.  I think it would have been nice to be in the garden room and look forward to where there are 3 arches up a few stairs with curtains in front of them (if you've been in the room you should know what I'm talking about), and have these areas open and leading to a naturally lit garden with real plants.  I think it would add a lot to the temple ceremony and provide a wonderful representation of the Garden of Eden.  I think it would be nice to add the greenhouse again.  It could be made to resemble the sealing room annex on the north of the temple, only with more glass.  I think this would work and is how the Salt Lake Temple was intended.  (I added the photo next to this paragraph which makes the greenhouse much easier to see).
The Oakland California Temple
From what I've read and seen in pictures, I understand that the Oakland California Temple has a courtyard garden enclosed on 3 sides.  In the picture this is on the north (top).  I mentioned in an earlier post that the courtyard has sculptures including this one (I like dogs by the way).  The sculptures are looking towards one of the two relief sculptures of Jesus Christ teaching.  I like the idea of this partially enclosed sculpture garden as an area to contemplate Christ and the temple.

Those are the temples that I know have (or had) an atrium or courtyard.  I think several others used to have them before additions took over the courtyards.  With our current focus on small temples, I don't expect to see many more of these, although the Rome Italy Temple complex forms a square garden between the temple, visitor's center, stake center, and family history center.  I think several other temples have this type of setup that creates a more private garden.  I do hope that we occasionally see an atrium or courtyard in a new temple.  The high school I attended had numerous small gardens with a single tree surrounded by glass that went into 2-3 classrooms and a hallway.  This brought a lot of natural light into the rooms and was really nice.  This idea could be used even in our smaller temples as it would only require a small space.

Please comment and let us all know what you think about temple atriums, courtyards, and enclosed gardens.  If you know of any I've missed please comment as well.


Clark Herlin said...

On Google maps, how what did you do to zoom in so close as to get an ariel view of the temples? How did you do it?

William Thompson said...

The Cardston Alberta Temple has a small courtyard at it's entrance - google arial images of Cardston are very poor, but it can be seen in photos at
As you approach the entrance to the temple there are two small standalone structures - a small visitors centre on the left and a sort of waiting room on the right (although I'd use that term 'waiting room' loosely - the chairs are set up more like a Relief Society Room - on ward temple trips we often meet here first and are greeted by the Temple Presidency). Passing through the gates between them there is a small outdoor courtyard.

There is also an atrium of sort. When originally built there was a fountain in front of the temple (similar to the Laie Hawaii Temple, only no where near as large). The fountain has a stone relief of the Saviour with the woman at the well, and so the fountain and pool is often referred to as Jacob's Well. At some point during a major renovation the temple was expanded so that now the fountain and pool are entirely inside the temple and a large entry foyer was created around it. As you walk into the temple the fountain is immediately in front of you, coat closet on the right; stair on the left take you up half a level to a waiting area and washrooms, continuing up the steps is the temple recommend desk. While the fountain is before you get to the temple recommend desk, the sign on the door says 'only endowed members beyond this point'. The courtyard however is open to the public.

Scott said...

Clark, you just zoom in. You do need to make sure that it is set to satellite or earth and not map (the setting is in the upper right corner of the map screen). In some places when you zoom to a certain level it goes from satellite imagery to an aerial photo. This doesn't occur everywhere and is a new thing. Bing is more consistent with aerial photos.

Scott said...

Thanks for commenting. I was fairly sure that Cardston had a courtyard. I also recall seeing old pictures of the Mesa Arizona Temple showing it having a courtyard. Expansions have taken over the courtyard, but it would have been nice in its day.
My post on temple relief sculptures discusses the Cardston Temple fountain sculpture. A replica is in the Provo Temple lobby. I didn't realize that the Cardston sculpture was now indoors. I need to take a weekend and do the 13 hour drive up there to see the Cardston Temple.

Brett said...

Good call on the Salt Lake Temple greenhouse...that would be lovely and would provide balance again.

Don said...

It's also noteworthy that the Oakland Temple has numerous trees, bushes and other plants growing right on top of the building itself. There are staircases and walkways that take visitors right on top of the temple to enjoy the gardens and the view.

Scott said...

Thanks for mentioning that. I'd forgotten about that feature of the temple. It really is nice. I hope to one day visit the Oakland Temple as I have yet to attend any temples in California.

Brian said...

Mesa had a courtyard on north south and east sides each. on the north and south, the courtyards were in line left and right with the pillars on the upper story, and pushed back to the upper story itself. On the East side, the courtyard was the width of the upper story, also pushed back to the upper story.

Scott said...

I was pretty sure I'd seen a picture of the Mesa courtyards at the visitor's center, but couldn't confirm it so I didn't include it in the post. Thanks for verifying that Brian.

Chris said...

San Diego's atrium in the center is located just off the second floor of the celestial room. The celestial room is located inside one of the temple's two spires letting in all kinds of natural light and has a second level (sort of a balcony) along the interior of the room. Off the balcony is a doorway leading to the atrium pictured. The atrium is open air with glass separating it from the temple interior. You can enter that atrium through the celestial room or through a hallway leading from the waiting room. Sealing rooms surround the atrium otherwise.

Gorgeous place. Wish it had bigger grounds, but it's La Jolla!

Lewis said...

I recently stumbled on to your blog and I love it! Thank-you.
Another interesting side-note about the San Diego atrium is that you can see the tops of the spires from inside the temple. If you stand in a certain spot, you can actually see the Moroni statue as you look up through the glass atrium—a dramatic sight at night when the statue is lit. Also the atrium is open air at the top, so if it is raining outside, it is raining in the atrium as well.

Brian said...

Scott, I recently stumbled across this photo of Cardston Temple wich shows that it originally had a roof terrace on the lowest portion of the temple:

I was in Cardston 2 weeks ago and asked some of the locals about it. They confirmed it was there, and explained that that is why the cornerstone is on the upper portion, just like Oakland.

Laura F said...

The Sacramento temple also has a kind of atrium with live plants, it's really beautiful.

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Tam said...

Hey I found your blog through pintrest (someone pinned the san diego stair case) and I've been slowly flicking through your blog the last few days and really enjoying it, I'm so glad you mentioned the court yards they are one of my favorite things about Oakland and Bountiful, I remember going through the bountiful temple open house and it was stunning in the very deep snow that year.

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