Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Metal Clad Temple Towers, Domes, and Spires

Temple towers, spires, and domes have occasionally been clad in metal.  I want to talk a little about these.

Many historic Christian churches have metal clad spires.  Lead, Aluminum, Copper, Gold, and other metals have been used throughout history.  The metals serve a practical function of protecting the spire as they weather well.  Placing metals on churches was also a a way to make the church extra special, as many of the metals were hard to come by.

Orig. 1884 Salt Lake Temple Spire Sections
Truman Angel Sr.'s 1884 plans for the Salt Lake Temple had metal sheathed spires.  So the slanted portions of all six towers would have been covered in metal.  In 1887, Truman Angel Jr. changed the design to have the granite spires that the temple has today. (See Salt Lake Temple: A Monument to a People)  Today, the only metal on the spires are five copper finials and the gold leaf covered Angel Moroni statue.

The London England Temple has a metal spire.  You can see a photo here.  The spire is the most detailed portion of the temple's exterior and I like it.  I also served my mission in London so I'm biased.  According to ldschurchtemples.com
The original design of the London England Temple called for a spire of perforated aluminum, similar in appearance to the spires of the Oakland California Temple. The perforations were later removed from the design, however, in favor of a solid sheath of lead-coated copper.
The Oakland California Temple has five perforated gold colored spires.  They are apparently not metal, byt rather reinforced concrete that is painted to look like metal.  I've read that the oriental look of the spires is not a coincidence, but rather was used because of the large number of Asian Americans in California and particularly the Bay Area.  You can see pictures of the spires here and here and here.  I love their complexity.  I also love how the lattice structure lets the spires glow.

The Ogden and Provo Temples were the next to have metal spires.  Theirs were originally an orange gold color seen here and here. They were meant to represent the pillar of fire by night that led the Israelites from Egypt.  The upper floors of the temple just below the spire was supposed to represent the cloud that led the Israelites by day.  This is neat symbolism with, in my opinion, horrible execution.  The temples ended up resembling rocket ships, birthday cakes, and other unintended things.  In the 2000s each temple had a statue of the Angel Moroni added (which was actually in the original plans, so we shouldn't think that destroyed the architectural vision of these temples).  At the same time, the spires were painted white, covering the original metal.

Next, the Washington D.C. Temple was built with 6 pointy metal spires.  Their length makes this temple the tallest temple.  The spires are made of steel overlaid with gold leaf.  Each spire has a lot more detail than you usually notice.

The Sao Paulo Brazil Temple was the next temple with a metal spire.  Originally the temple lacked an Angel Moroni statue, but made up for this with a detailed spire.

I think the Tokyo Japan Temple spire is metal.  The Stockholm Sweden Temple and Frankfurt Germany Temple also used metal on their spires.  Many have since used some metal in the spires.

The Houston Texas Temple uses a lot of copper to cover its prominent spire. I really like the style of this temple and feel that the weathered copper gives the modern classical architecture a dignified, mature look.

The Boston Massachusetts Temple was originally completed without a tower due to a lawsuit.  A few months after its dedication, a tower clad in metal was added to the temple.  I like the design.  It is modern, yet fits in with the New England architecture, partially due to the metal spire.

The Helsinki Finland Temple features a metal spire for the tower and a metal dome over the celestial room.

Orig. Oquirrh Mountain Temple Plan With a Copper Spire
The original plans for the Oquirrh Mountain Temple included a copper clad spire.  This would have been nice as Kennecott Copper donated the land for the temple and the Oquirrh Mountains have the largest copper mine (and largest open pit mine) in the world.  The final design has a stone clad tower.

A few temples have metal domes.  The Nauvoo Illinois Temple has a metal tower dome.  I think the Manti Temple towers are clad in metal, but they may use shingles. The Vernal Utah Temple has two copper domes.  The Newport Beach California also has two copper domes, one on the tower, the other above the celestial room.

Other temples have some metal cladding.  The Cochabamba Bolivia Temple was metal on top of its central and 4 side towers.  The Las Vegas Nevada Temple has a copper roof.  Other temples have metal used here and there.

I like metal spires, towers, and domes on temples.  They haven't been used as often as stone or fiberglass or painted spires.  That makes them unique and interesting.  Metal brings a certain dignity to these temples.  There are a wide variety of uses with numerous metals to choose from.  Different styles can and have been used such as perforating the metal, adding etchings, adding a textured pattern, using a smooth metal surface, using several metals, etc.  Metals can retain an untarnished glory or be allowed to develop a dignified patina.  The possibilities are great and so I expect to continue seeing metal temple spires, domes, and towers.  That is a good thing.

Please comment and let us know what you think.


Travis Brinton said...

Having climbed them, I can attest that the spires of the Oakland Temple are not made of metal at all. They're reinforced concrete painted white on the inside and a bronze or gold color on the outside, with turquoise accents.

Scott said...

good to know. What were you doing on the spires?

Travis Brinton said...

I was helping clean the temple during the summer when it closes for a few weeks.

Don said...

Only the very tips of the Ogden and Provo Temple spires were coated with metal--just the last little section at the very top, which I believe were gold-leafed. The rest of the spires were fiberglass, and their deep yellow-orange color was representative of a pillar of fire.

The first architects' renderings of the Provo and Ogden Temples showed Moroni statues, but the designs that received final approval from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve did not.

Scott said...

Occasionally spires have been made to look like metal even though they are not. For the purposes of this post I have not verified that every spire was actually metal, although most are.

Brett said...

The New Zealand and Swiss Temples have large metal finials on the top of their spires.


Vernice Yehl said...

Truly, those towers and spires play a big role in symbolizing the untarnished and dignified image of different churches. Each of them has different styles and designs which are sometimes related to their struggles with modern times. And those structures should be maintained properly and protected from the harsh environment and even thieves.