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
here, here, here, and here.
The Las Vegas Nevada 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
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)
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
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.