From atop Rubik’s Cube


Here are some shots through the grand windows of the 11th floor meeting room of the old Brown Rudnick law firm, a space now belonging to Brown University, which kindly allowed me up to shoot a shot for my book Lost Providence, now about two-thirds written. All of the shots here are taken from the cutting-room floor, that is, they are not shots I took for the book, but as targets of opportunity – I shot them because they were there.

Perhaps the only story line here, aside from the garish brick RISD has imposed on the city skyline, is that of how the Darth Vader Building (One Citizens Plaza) blocks the view of the State House from downriver. I have a sad shot somewhere in my iPhoto library of 44,637 phot0graphs that shows that you can still see the dome of our capitol, topped off by the Independent Man, in a sliver of space between the Darth and RISD’s old Hospital Trust. Maybe I have flagged it. [I’m afraid not.] If I happen upon it I will add it to this post. Didn’t, so I went out and reshot it. (It is not, of course, from atop Rubik’s Cube. It was shot from the Crawford Street Bridge.)
















Oh, yes, and here’s the Rubik’s Cube, below, seen from just off Benefit Street:


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Sketches by David Macaulay


Portion of David Macaulay’s exhibit on the waterfront. (Photo by David Brussat)

Strolling along the RISD embankment during WaterFire last Saturday, I stumbled upon “The Way Macaulay Works,” an exhibit of the work of David Macaulay, the prolific illustrator and creator of books about how buildings, cathedrals and other places are built. His is a magical talent, and it was on full display at the Illustration Studies Building – I assume that’s what ISB stands for; spelling something out is so old hat – 55 Canal Walk, and will be until Sept. 21. A closing reception will be held that Wednesday evening at 7.

RISD’s online description of the event (link above) offers this interesting assessment of Macaulay’s work process: “A MacArthur fellow, Macaulay offers an expository installation revealing his characteristically convoluted and extraordinarily inefficient process from endless sketching to the occasional finished product.” I assume the artist OK’d the description if indeed he did not provide it himself. Intriguing, to say the least!

Also intriguing is why it took RISD so long to think of offering a gallery experience on a WaterFire evening.  Barnaby Evans’s famous art installation has been with us for at least two decades, some 200 events at the very least. Why, for that matter, has RISD never opened a café of any sort along its section of the embankment? And while I’m at it, let me wonder out loud why, after the city and state provided RISD with a free waterfront campus, would the school express its gratitude by plopping the abominable new wing of the RISD Museum of Art on North Main Street?

I took photos of the waterfront and west slope of College Hill from the 11th floor windows of Old Stone Square (the Rubik’s Cube building), and it was impossible to get away from the garish orange brick that sticks out of the hillside like a sore thumb. I expect to post that shot (see below) along with others from my photo shoot in a post tomorrow.

You have almost a month to go see Macaulay’s exhibit. Imagine a whole exhibit of stuff such as inhabits the wall in one of the pictures I’ve included here and you will be able to imagine the thrill in store for anyone interested in architectural drawing at the uppermost level of quality.





The ISB, on what used to be Canal Street before the rivers were daylighted in the 1990s.

Oh yes, the ISB is lovely from this side. It is one of the old warehouses that H.P. Lovecraft loved and tried to save (this one was not at risk), but RISD covered the North Main Street façade with modernist crap glitz. Thanks a heap! Still, good on ya for finally opening a gallery on a WaterFire night. Keep up the good work. RISD has done much to make Providence a great place, including its preservation of many great buildings. It nevertheless has much to atone for. Not the least of it is the orange of the brick from its museum wing below. (Architect Rafael Moneo, who designed the wing, is said to work well in historic settings – that must mean he knows how to punish them.)


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The Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall concludes (or begins?) at the Yellow Sea, near North Korea. (Kuriositas)

Who knew that it ended at the sea? It does, at the Yellow Sea, just athwart what we now call the Korean Peninsula. It is over 13,000 miles long, running from east to west. I do not know how successful a protection it was, or from whom, nor have I anything to say of its ramifications today. Suffice it to say that these pictures describe a wall of great elegance, but too long to walk, and surely not in high heels. But here are shots of portions of the wall that we rarely see, and without the usual crowd of tourists.

This set of photographs, “The Great Wall of China: Diverse Perspectives” was assembled by the website Kuriositas.

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Ugliest house in Vancouver?

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Some Vancouverites are upset over the house to the left in the photo above. “Vancouver’s Most Hideous Urban Design for 2016: Why residents are up in arms over this house,” reads the headline in The National Post.

So why are residents up in arms over this house? Let me guess. There is a clue in the headline: it is Vancouver’s “most hideous urban design for 2016.” Talk about a headline belaboring the obvious! That black box has replaced a house of very pleasant traditional lines, depicted below left. Although the house above on the left is certainly uglier than the house on the right, the latter, which copies the past in the Corbusian manner, is no candidate for the charmer of the year award. Why wasn’t residential Vancouver just as upset by that house as it supposedly is by its glowering new neighbor?

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Original 3691 Point Grey Rd. (

The architect, Tony Robins, proposes another, um, house in Vancouver that has raised eyebrows. Pictured at the end of this post, it is considered a “heritage infill” project, not completed (or even really planned, perhaps). Hasn’t anyone noted its resemblance to Rem Koolhaas’s “Big Pants” building for China’s CCTV in Beijing? Unlike Big Pants, which stomps with metaphorical rage upon the Chinese people, Robins’s proposed building almost literally stomps on, or at least threatens to collapse upon, the old house above which it hovers. Who would want to live there? Why wasn’t Vancouver up in arms over this proposal? Perhaps because it, like its neighbors, is apparently a commercial enterprise? So what?

The National Post’s writer, Cheryl Chan, talked to the neighbors.

A neighbour who lives across the street was befuddled by the design. “Where are the windows?” she asked. “Is that black the end result or are they going to stick something on the front?”

Are there no courts of law to resolve this sort of dispute? Does the neighbor quoted above, who apparently understands the threat to her own house’s value, have no recourse? The National Post story continues, quoting a historian’s description of housing trends.

Michael Kluckner described the house as “unneighbourly” but par for the course — the ultimate expression of our society’s evolution from a front-porch culture to a courtyard culture.

A century ago, Vancouver houses looked outward, their windows as eyes on the street with front porches that allowed for interaction with neighbours, said Kluckner. But throughout the decades, “there was a turning inward that has accelerated.”

Modern homes now usually present “an almost blank face on the street,” with drawn windows and an expansion of the backyard as a private recreational space. “You realize how much the design of a house … has the ability to connect with people and how much of that has disappeared,” he said.

Why are people in neighborhoods throughout this great continent of ours, or for that matter the world, not up in arms about this kind of architecture wherever and whenever it is built? It could be that they are, but feel helpless to do anything about it. Architecture has become a powerful cult, having planted roots since 1950 in the cultural establishment in spite of the regrets felt and sometimes even voiced by anybody with a mind. Eventually, the world will undertake an intervention.

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Another proposal, possibly an office, by Tony Robins. (

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In search of Russell Warren


Russell Warren’s Dr. Nathan Durfee House, Fall River. (“Books on Paper”)

Through my correspondent Peter Van Erp, Corinne Barber of the Rhode Island Historical Society has made it known that the Society will be digitizing drawings and other documents of Russell Warren, the celebrated 19th century Rhode Island architect. He is perhaps best known for his work with James Bucklin on the Providence Arcade, built in 1828, possibly the third and certainly the oldest remaining indoor mall in the United States. During his career he worked up and down the Eastern Seaboard, including a stint of several years in South Carolina. If anybody is aware of local archives housing original sketches, plans or other material attributed to or about him, Corinne and the Society would love to hear from you.

She also hopes that some firms will be in a position to help finance this project.

Here are some of Corinne’s thoughts:

The mission of the Russell Warren Project is to make available in a single location the plans created by Russell Warren and the historical documents relating to his life that are currently located in archives across the region. By digitizing these records, we will encourage broader access to these collections and protect the original materials from repeated physical use. RIHS hopes to close the gap between these varied collections by hosting their digitized versions with links to their home organizations in one streamlined, online catalog.  Over the course of this project, we also hope that our efforts will encourage other members of the community to identify their pieces of Russell Warren history, helping to assemble a more complete portfolio of this prolific R.I. architect.

Of course, once we find the plans, it’s going to cost money to have them digitized.  I would love to be able to get the R.I. architect community involved in covering that cost (it’s really very little).

Of course, Russell Warren plays a role in my upcoming book, Lost Providence, and I have personally experienced the difficulty of acquiring high-quality copies of Warren’s elegant architecture drawings – and not only drawings by him. This digital centralization concept seems certain to be of high value to anyone interested in American architecture.

Here is Corinne’s contact information:

Corinne Barber
Development Officer
Rhode Island Historical Society
110 Benevolent Street
Providence, R.I. 02906


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Lovely rough-hewn brick

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Jumbo Utility brick known as “Bark.”

Beauty is not always symmetrical, or smooth or polished. Neither is nature. Some of the most beautiful buildings have a sort of rough-hewn quality, often provided gratis over the years by time and weather. The matter came up yesterday when Barrington, R.I., architect David Anreozzi, a member of the TradArch listserv, asked listers whether anyone was familiar with the type of brick pictured above.

“Does this ugly brick look familiar to you? I need to match it in size and texture for a proposed addition – before I paint it all,” wrote Andreozzi, who specializes in very high quality traditional houses. A lister then replied, identifying it as “Jumbo Utility — 7 ⅝ x 2 ⅝ x 4 ⅝.” He added, “Texture seems to be what Glen-Gery [a maker of brick] calls ‘Bark.’ Appropriate, it is a dog!”

As a TradArcher in good standing, I sent in a reply:

No, no! This brick is not ugly. It might be put to ugly use but its rough texture is not ugly. It is sort of naturally integrated into the order of laid brick. Not ugly. Maybe unusual, but not ugly per se. Actually, it is quite attractive. Is it machine made? I always loved the rough-hewn, hand-made quality of brick from old buildings in colonial times (here in America). This brick may be a sort of latter- day substitute for that hand-made quality. Or maybe it actually is hand made. Anyhow, I like it.

To my post here, Andreozzi replied: “It is more complicated than the brick style alone. The combination of the brick’s style, the contrasting darker grout lines, on a 1980s boxy modern house make for a difficult combination to work with. As part of a new facadectomy – :^) – we are trying to make it look more traditional.”

Good! But if the client wants the brick painted over, maybe it will be ugly after all! Maybe the client is the famous Ugly Client. Maybe what the Ugly Client really should do is tear his house down and replace it with a house of béton brut – French for rough concrete, better known as the modernist architec- tural style Brutalism. The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture describes Brutalism as “handled with an overemphasis on big chunky members which collide ruthlessly.”

Back in the early 1990s when Providence built a city-owned hotel to go with its convention center, it was to be of brick. An über-modernist member of the design review panel, Derek Bradford, urged that the mortar between the bricks be of the same red color as the bricks. His clear aim was to make the traditionally designed Westin look a little more modernist by eliminating the small detail of the contrasting coloration of the mortar. The building would have been flatter and more plasticky as a result. Bradford’s real intent was probably not to make it a better building – he is too smart for that – but to make a new traditional building look worse in the public eye, diminishing the very idea of new traditional architecture. It was a bad suggestion, and it was thankfully ignored.

The brick on top may be aptly called “Bark,” but not because it is a dog but because its surface resembles bark, the stuff on tree trunks. As with any material, it may be beautiful or ugly depending on how well or poorly it is used. Below is a great example of brick well used. It is from the new Jonathan Nelson Fitness Center at Brown University, winner of a 2016 Bulfinch Award and designed by Gary Brewer, of Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Providence has seen much new brick in recent years, some of it pretty horrid, such as the orange brick used in the new wing of the RISD Museum of Art, designed by Rafael Moneo. Excuse me, I will spare you a picture of that. (But you can Google it if you are a masochist.)

After I posted this, Tim Kelly sent in these interesting remarks. I was actually going to mention the too-sharp edges of the brick but I did not. Kelly mentions it. He writes:

It looks like a type of wire-cut brick. Machine-made. While this type of brick may have some charm as a close-up or a few individual bricks, when spread over an entire façade, it is really quite a dog.

There are three issues I have with this type of brick: 1) its a machine-made texture – there is no variation from brick to brick. 2) because of the manufacturing process, the bricks all have perfect 90-degree edges as opposed to the subtle irregularities they are trying to mimic. 3) the texture is too unnatural.  Perhaps there is traditional brickwork with a similar character I haven’t seen, but to me it just screams fake.

Take a look at the other offerings from Glenn Gery:
Molded Brick:
Hand-made Brick:

Compare those two offerings to the version to be matched. Those have the appearance of a pleather jacket.  or leopard-print polyester fabric…

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Brick at Nelson Fitness Center, Brown University. (Photo by David Brussat)

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Pictures of Rio de Janeiro

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There is very little to complain of in the category of Olympic stadiums at Rio this year. The structures all appear to have mastered the urge to look like something other than arenas for sport. No bird cages, no bubble mattresses, not this year. So I have collected some images of Rio de Janeiro, the city. It, unlike its stadia, has received not a few hard knocks this year. But Rio’s a beautiful place, and no crime wave, health scare or political crisis can take that away from it, especially if stacked next to Brazil’s actual capital, Brasilia. And I don’t want to go there. So … back to Rio. And here is an interesting essay, “Rio Atlas: Cosmopolitan Urbanism,” about the history of Rio’s architecture by Emma Schad.

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The next Blackstone battle?

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The headline refers to the failed effort, in 2014, to divide up the Granoff estate. The property behind it, 25 Balton Rd., has the same dark cloud gathering over it. Many people are familiar with the Bodell mansion from having driven (or walked) down Cole Avenue, between the Granoff estate (now owned by a Dallas developer, apparently) and the gigantic hedge of bushes through a gap in which may be seen the several fancy garage doors of a magnificent old house. Finished in 1929 to the design of architect William T. Aldrich, who designed the original RISD Museum of Art on Benefit Street, the Georgian Revival mansion was once known around town for its colorful gardens. Frederick Bodell was a stockbroker and a naturalist.

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Of the invaluable emails sent to the Blackstone neighborhood by David Kolsky the latest shows that on Tuesday afternoon, the City Plan Commission will discuss a plan to subdivide the four acres much as the Granoffs had hoped to subdivide their larger parcel of land. The house, according to my source, is to be retained but at least four much smaller houses are to be erected. In the aerial photo at left, the Bodell house is to the left, with swimming pool (which, one imagines, would be history).

My information here is very sketchy but my source fears that, while the Blackstone neighbors beat back the subdivision attempt by the Granoffs, its new owner could have another go at it, a task that would be easier if the Bodell property next door is successfully subdivided.

It might not really matter all that much except that given recent history, a developer might be expected to build more houses that don’t fit into this neighborhood’s historic character. The neighbors have taken decades to be aroused to the threat, as bad modernist houses arise to besmirch Blackstone’s picturesque charms. Now that they are alerted, they are aware that politics, not law, is often the deciding factor in zoning cases. It is not the law but the interpretation of the law that counts, and that is often political.

(Notwithstanding all this, the latest addition to the housing stock along Blackstone Boulevard is a lovely one on the boulevard just south of its intersection with Rochambeau Avenue. Its front columns have just been painted. How much lovelier it is that the two houses that arose several years ago just south of the boulevard’s intersection with Laurel!)

The meeting is at 4 on the first floor of the Department of Planning and Development, across Empire from the beautiful building on Westminster that it used to be in, and in the Brutalist structure it now inhabits at 444 Westminster, on the way up the path to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul.

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Delft tunnel in Amsterdam

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In the Cuyperspassage pedestrian tunnel, in Amsterdam. (

Amsterdam does everything it can to make it fun for walkers. You can see naked ladies in shop windows. Even the new tunnel from its central train station for pedestrians and bicyclists, called the Cuyperspassage, is bedecked with 46,000 blue Delft tiles depicting the sailing ship Rotterdam amidst the herring fleet in ages past. Here is a description, author uncredited, from the website, which seems to focus on high technology. The virtuosity of designer Irma Boom’s reimagining of a historic Delft tableau by Cornelis Boumeester on display in the Rijksmuseum gives rise to hope that beauty is not lost to every conception of high tech.

Lining the pedestrian side of the tunnel, these smooth, hand-shaped tiles are part of a spectacular tableau designed by Dutch designer Irma Boom. The tableau references a restored work by famed Dutch tile painter Cornelis Boumeester, whose works depicting the warship Rotterdam and the herring fleet is part of the Rijksmuseum collection. Boom however replaces the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms and added large and small vessels, crashing waves, seagulls and herring busses.

The mouth of the tunnel entrance itself represents a gentle approach to modernist design. As part of its work on the station, the firm Benthem Crouwel Architects designed the tunnel, which is used by 15,000 a day. And when the tiles eventually doff their cap to modernism, as described below, it is okay, because they have already done the heavy lifting of tradition.

As pedestrians and cyclists move through the passageway from the city, the tableau fades away as you move towards the Ij-river, before emerging again in the form of an abstract gradient of light to dark blue. This transition from classic Dutch imagery to abstract pixelation represents the journey from the historic district of Amsterdam to ‘new Amsterdam,’ as well as the evolution of Dutch artistic style over time.

… O-kay! I’d say that has it just about right. (A doffing of my own cap to my wife, Victoria, who sent me this fascinating tunnel article.)

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Entrance to the tunnel. (

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Credit for temple in Philly

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Rendering of new Mormon temple in Philadelphia. (

The level of astonishment aroused by the new temple in Philadelphia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not limited to this small corner of the archipunditsphere. My recent laudatory post, “Mormon temple in Philly,” has generated more desire to recognize those responsible for its design than any other classical building I’ve written about. Here is my attempt to do justice.

Mostly I will quote those involved citing others involved. Chief among those are the LDS officials in Salt Lake City who decided that a classical temple would be appropriate in Philly. To most people, this does not seem as if it would be a hard choice. But in a world where even the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Rome cannot be relied upon to select church designs that church goers will like, the pressure on ecclessiastical establishmentarians to knuckle under to the conventional wisdom (various versions of the Church of St. George Jetson) is intense. The decision was brave. Even during this period of rethinking in Salt Lake City, the church has commissioned a temple in Rome of that ilk. We are talking an awful lot of pressure, society being already marinated in the palpably untrue. But it is, I believe, pressure that has been resisted on behalf of Mormons in the Philadelphia area, among others, and should be resisted on behalf of Mormons everywhere.

A rendering of the Rome temple is below. It seems almost absurdly like the Philly temple. Both have two steeples. Is this a Mormon thing? No. Some LDS temples have two steeples, but based on a Google image search, just as many have one or three or four or more. This one is rather traditional, in a modernist sort of way. (Still, count me thankful that it seems to be outside central Rome.)

But I am straying. For reasons that will become clear, I cannot name the top church official(s) who made this courageous decision to resist the will to modernism in church design. But I can name some key players in the design process or, better yet, allow Roger Jackson to do so. He is the head of the Salt Lake City firm of FKKR Architects, which does a goodly amount of work for the LDS. I put out word on the TradArch list seeking those responsible for this excellent design, and Jackson responded with a cornucopia of interesting detail and process insight. Here is his email to me, which he has given me permission to print, and I have done so almost in its entirety.


I was asked to prepare a brief history of the design and description of the building for the client, which I’ll share  an excerpt of here.

Perkins+Will, one of three firms interviewed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Philadelphia Temple Complex, was awarded the project in January 2009.

Temple Design: Perkins+Will was initially requested to design a contemporary temple similar to the temples at Oquirrh Mountain, Utah; Rome, Italy; and Preston, England. A recent exhibit of Modern LDS architecture held at BYU was also suggested for reference. Perkins+Will and the Church’s temple design group developed and took forward a design that was initially approved, but ultimately the direction from senior Church leadership shifted and a Classical design direction was pursued.  At that point Perkins+Will suggested inviting FFKR to participate in the design of the temple (August 2010).  Given their depth of expertise in both temples and Classical design, FFKR was directed to design a traditional building to fit into the vernacular and architecture of the surrounding area.  With design approval in 2012, the design team moved forward together with Perkins+Will as executive architect and architect of record for the site design, underground parking garage / plaza, and the Temple Services Building; and FFKR as architect of record for the temple.  Perkins+Will provided design services for the temple’s architectural interiors as well as Furniture, Furnishings and Equipment design.

That’s all true.  The original design by P+W was, and would have been, a good building, but it was quite contemporary and ultimately not appreciated by senior church leadership.  We (FFKR, and me in particular) were asked to take the original design and make it more traditional and more fitting within the architecture of the city.  We spent several days wandering downtown and studying the beautiful civic and public architecture of the city.  We carefully selected precedent buildings to guide our work.  The LDS temples have a certain look, a “brand” if you will, but that word is too crass.  It is important to church leadership that the temple buildings look familiar, look like a temple, and that the membership can recognize it.  Secondarily, it is important that the buildings fit in with the architecture and building culture of the city they are in.  We are very deliberate about that in all our temple projects.  (You can look up our other temple projects in Kansas City, Mo.; Brigham City, Utah; Hartford, Conn. (in construction) and Tucson, Ariz. (also in construction).)

I was the principal designer for the exterior of the building. As we worked, the floor plan morphed and changed a bit as we worked to make the inside and the outside fit. Most of the design work was done by hand with hundreds of sketches exploring many many alternatives. Parallel to my sketching was Scott Woodruff working in SketchUp. When he’d catch up to me, or I to him (or when my tracings of tracings started to lean and distort), Scott would print me new elevations to scale and we’d continue. Everything is built on the patterns and proportions of Ware’s “American Vignola.” (Warning!!! Some of the know-it-alls on TradArch will say AV is way too boring and pedestrian and that there are other canons that are better. Maybe, but AV is the easiest and clearest canon of the orders there is. If designers everywhere would just use that and not get themselves lost in the weeds, the world would be much more beautiful.) SketchUp is perfect for traditional buildings because so many elements repeat. Others I mentioned, Steve Goodwin in particular, helped develop many of the various details, and Kevin Harrison built it all in REVIT [a brand of architectural design software] as if he were preparing the shop tickets.

The interior architecture and all the furniture and everything inside was developed by Scott Thompson and David Sheehan at P+W. Scott is a real talent, and experienced with, and knowledgeable about, traditional and historic interiors. They designed it, and we, as the architect of record, worked out all the details and built it into the REVIT model and construction documents. This was no small task.

All of this was done very collaboratively between the two firms, and working with the Church’s designers. All are very sophisticated builders with talented and seasoned professionals guiding the design, interior design, and project management. This three-legged stool really worked well.

In the middle of this, the church’s temple department had hired a couple of young designers educated at Notre Dame’s School of Architecture and other schools, in an effort to push more classical design into the temple projects. We were well down this road when they joined the team, but they were really helpful to us and were a great resource for precedent images and references, etc. These designs wouldn’t be what they are without their influence: Brad Houston, Spencer Dennison, and Paul Monson.

I’ll give a little background on our team. I went to architecture school at the University of Utah in 1984, a very modernist school. Of course we had history classes, but it was a slide show in a dark auditorium and then never talked about again. Working at FFKR in 1987, I had the great fortune to be assigned to a significant adaptive re-use, remodel project and seismic upgrade of a great building in downtown SLC – the Hotel Utah conversion to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. I fell in love with old buildings and started to teach myself all the history and traditional/classical architecture I could. Several historic buildings later, we were invited to be the architect for the LDS temple in Vernal, Utah (the conversion of an old meeting house into a temple), then for the reconstructed temple in Nauvoo, Ill., and several more since then.  The Nauvoo temple received the Palladio award (2003) and it was there, at the Traditional Building Conference, that I discovered the ICAA and met Christine Frank and Steven Semes. [Semes initiated this call for credit where credit is due with a comment on my blog.] Who knew people were thinking about this and talking about this, and actually trying to do this?  It changed everything for me. Now I had a more direct source to teach myself  more.

Steve Goodwin’s story is nearly parallel to mine, having worked on some of these same projects.  He, however, had the opportunity to attend the ICAA’s winter intensive a few years ago.  The rest of our office, or at least the people working on these temple projects, is learning classicism and traditional architecture from us and from the local ICAA chapter.

[Here Jackson sent more material after I had pressed him for inside dope about why the LDS has shifted back toward tradition in its temple designs, at least to some degree.]

The question of design styles and design sympathies in the Church’s temples is a really good question. It is an on-going ever-evolving process for sure, and something we talk about often, amongst ourselves and with them. There are several factors at play here, including the personal preference of the Church’s leadership (not design professionals),  and the opinions of the design managers with whom we work, and their bosses. I don’t think there is any sort of official direction for the design of the temples. No one ever talks like that. It might be overly simplistic to say, but I think that current Church leadership likes more traditional designs. It could be just that simple.  But in the middle of this, the new temple for Rome, Italy (by another architect) was approved, and it is much more contemporary than others of the same time period. I also think, and this is just my own thoughts, that the designs moving forward will still be traditionally flavored, but will be simpler and more restrained. Our own project in Tucson, Ariz. (and others I’ve seen in the works lately) is evidence of that.

I hope this helps. A good resource for seeing these temples is the Church’s own website or the private website (with more and better photos and information about all the temples)


Roger Jackson concluded his valuable comments by quoting back to me one of my favorite refrains: “Joy in modern architecture is a learned response.  Joy in traditional architecture is instinctive.” I think the more that LDS leadership recognizes that truth, the more likely they are to please more Mormons with their church designs.

Late in the process of developing all this information I got an intriguing email from Jason R. Dunham, of Nequette Architecture & Design of Birmingham, Ala., who wrote:

There has been criticism for a long time regarding the contemporary/modernist temple designs coming out of the LDS Church. Especially considering the wonderful early designs, mostly out west in Utah, Canada, etc., built in the mid 19th Century and early 20th Century. Finally, someone decided to do something about it. A valiant effort was made by an ICAA/NU member (and member of the LDS Church), Bradford Houston, who took a lead design position inside the LDS Temple department to begin to change the tide amongst the leadership. Fortunately, his influence was effective and a handful of the more recent temples have been inspired by traditional/classical principles and precedents.  I applaud this effort, and despite the Philadelphia Temple’s imperfections, is a big step in the right direction for the LDS Church.

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