The odd angles, plain wood trim, indirect lighting, vast expanses of unadorned wallboard, and lack of any traditional design motif that says “church”, however innocuous, makes most LDS chapels these days look like big conference rooms at Best Western motels rather than places of worship. Some of the free-standing steeples I’ve seen on LDS buildings built during the last 20 years are hideous eyesores. Truly embarrassing. Surely we can do better than this without spending frivolously.
The interior of a church should at least inspire a bit of reverence with its design, but there again, every Sacrament Meeting I’ve ever been to anywhere has been about as reverent (before it starts) as an airline terminal. Obviously current designs aren’t doing the job. I’m afraid we’ve become so focused on remaining a cost-effective “peculiar people” that we’ve lost touch with some of the good things that are still there in the larger Christian tradition like inspirational architecture, even at a basic level, and are unwilling or even unable now to recognize how the appearance of sacred space really has a significant impact on the worship experience. Once in a while my family and I actually skip out early on the 3 hour block and go to a nearby Catholic or Episcopal church because we find much more of a reverent spirit there, and the buildings themselves, with their beautiful traditional designs, truly invoke a feeling of reverence. How I wish LDS chapels would do that.
I’m not arguing for “adorning our churches at the expense of the poor.” But when a church adopts building policies that eliminate virtually every traditional architectural indication of reverential worship, something’s wrong.]]>
As much as it galls to say it, I guess we can’t have everything.]]>
Consider, these are tithing dollars being spent. The widow’s mite. The brethren know that and they want buildings to be good and strong and attractive, but not excessively so.
It reminds me of how in the Book of Mormon it says that people tend to love the ornamenting of their churches more than they love the poor and needy.
Good thing the brethren love the poor and needy more than the ornamenting of their churches, huh?
I like neat buildings just as much as the next guy, but I’m more happy with those cookie cutter church buildings, because it shows the tithing is being used carefully.]]>
But calling it that is an insult to barns.]]>
Moshe Akiva’s analogy with corporate America is spot on, but I see it a different way. For example, as much as Starbucks tries to give you that authentic coffee house feeling, its still a corporate version of such nostalgia and ambiance. People long for the quaint “mom and pop” restaurants and shops but cease to understand the nature of capitalism. Eventually, the mom and pop will sell out and open a franchise. The whole goal of the church is to be the largest church franchise in the world. Its only going to get worse (or better, depending on how you look at it).]]>
I don’t know what details a plan building offers that my children might be so attached to. The jute on the wall? It makes me want to encourage them to chase each other round the track that runs round the chapel and cultural hall, since that’s a feature one could bond to.
I feel really lucky we happen to be living within the boundaries of a non-plan meetinghouse now. There’s a chalkboard in one of the classrooms with sliding wooden doors to cover it. There are carpeted stairs leading up to the stage in the cultural hall, where the adults sit and talk between classes, and the kids play on after church. Details are good.]]>
I have a friend who is an architect for the church and he oversees the building of church buildings in different states. He tells me that zoning laws in Southern California require unique and sometimes drastic aesthetic changes to be made to the otherwise standard plans.
A former employer of mine (I’m an architect) told me of a project he worked on the the early 60′s for a poor ward on the west side of Salt Lake. He said the folks from Church Headquarters requested of the contractor to use some of the local ward members as unpaid laborers because in those days each ward had to pay for their own buildings. The contractor agreed. When the concrete foundation work turned out to be less than perfect because of the unskilled labor used by the contractor, the county inspector said he would let is go because the foundation would be covered with earth but asked the contractor to strive for better results. But when the church inspector came on site, from the same office that convinced the contractor to use the unslkilled labor of the ward, he insisted the contractor remove the defective foundation work and start over. Such was the plight of the building program when local wards had to raise all the money.
From that perspective I think the “prototype” church buildings we have are adequate when you figure we are trying to accommodate at least one new church building per day throughout the world. It is also a good deal for the less affluent wards (of which there are many) so they can all have decent facilities.
However, an aquaintence of mine visited a new meeting house built in Phnom Phen, in Cambodia and said that the local residents had not maintained the facility very well and that their culrual differences did not fit the modern “American” ward house. Just another thought.
Although the new ward buildings are very plain and without decoration I think they are better than some examples of the temples we have built. Probably the two ugly ducklingsa would be Provo and Ogden and I would say San Diago is close behind them. Just my opinion.
By the way, I live in the Washington DC metro area and so it might not surprise you that the DC Temple is my favorite.]]>