Despite my own excitement about the coming LDS Tabernacle Temple — aka the Provo City Center Temple — I’ve repeatedly expressed my fear that the building won’t capitalize on its potential to improve downtown Provo. This has been a recurring theme since the beginning of this blog, but chief among my concerns is that most LDS temples are designed as quiet suburban destinations far away from economic centers like downtown Provo. In the past, I’ve looked to urban stadiums, the tech campuses, the San Diego LDS temple, and many other things as examples of how this problem plays out in different cities.
However, due some Facebook pictures, I recently learned about the LDS Church’s Copenhagen Denmark temple. After a quick study of the building on the church’s website and Google Maps, I think the building may offer one of the best examples of what Provo’s new temple should be.
The Copenhagen temple opened in 1999 and just like the Tabernacle Temple was converted from a previous structure.
As the picture demonstrates, it’s also a relatively small but attractive brick structure in the midst of an existing neighborhood — again, just like the Provo Tabernacle Temple.
Google street view is even more revealing. In the picture below, the temple is on the right. Significantly, there is no fence or wall around the structure. (And of course, there are bike racks. So perfect.) The building is also right up against the sidewalk. This picture seems to subvert the conventional wisdom that LDS temples need some sort of protective wall or fence. It also shows that a temple can mesh well with other buildings in an urban setting.
This next picture below is a front view of the temple, showing a small but attractive square. Note that the square is not fenced off like most temple grounds. Instead, it’s public. This is exactly the sort of thing that would work well in Provo, though I’ve never seen something similar at an American temple.
In the picture below, the temple’s gated courtyard is visible. Notice that it’s small and has a correspondingly small fence. By contrast, the San Diego Temple, the Provo temple, and others have imposing and uninviting 6 foot walls and fences surrounding them.
The next picture shows that the temple is located in a fairly high density neighborhood, with street parking very nearby. I don’t know if the temple itself has parking, though I didn’t see any big parking lots or structures anywhere, which is obviously another important lesson for Provo.
This next picture (below) shows the street behind the temple. As I argued here and here, these sorts of small, intimate streets are one of the best things about old, European cities. They also give people more choices when trying to navigate the city. Significantly, this street shows that temples don’t need massive and inaccessible grounds that are blocked off to pedestrians.
The picture shows a rear view of the temple grounds, along with more of that tiny street. When I see this street, I immediately think of 100 South in Provo, which the LDS Church now owns and plans to close down. Rather than completely block it off, however, this street shows that 100 South could remain open, perhaps as a pedestrian and bike path.
Copenhagen isn’t Provo, but this temple shows how LDS buildings can coexist in an urban setting. This temple’s design also responds to many of the concerns I expressed in this post, where I suggested that the Tabernacle Temple may not actually increase downtown foot traffic.
In any case, I hope that the Tabernacle Temple takes its cues from Copenhagen, rather than the numerous suburban temples I’ve seen in the United States.