Temple Architectural Heritages: Provo

I was just given access to Chat-GPT’s image functionality. Now you can upload images and have it answer questions about it. (Yes, I know, but bear with me, after this I think it will be a while before we have anything fundamentally new in the AI space, so this might be my last AI series for a while). 

I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings. I’m not an expert, but it appears to have basically gotten it right, although I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case.

1. **Modernism**: The building’s clean lines, large flat surfaces, and minimal ornamentation are indicative of modernist architecture. Modernism emerged in the early 20th century and was a response to ornate Victorian and Edwardian styles, emphasizing function and the use of new construction technologies.
– *Example*: The Villa Savoye in France by Le Corbusier is a prime example of modernist architecture with its emphasis on functionalism and the use of reinforced concrete.

2. **Classicism**: The building shows simplified elements of classical architecture. Symmetry, proportion, and the use of columns or pilasters are reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman buildings.

– *Example*: The Pantheon in Rome with its grand portico and use of columns is a hallmark of classical design.

3. **Brutalism**: While the building in the image isn’t a strict example of Brutalism, the use of raw concrete and block-like aesthetics might draw parallels with this style. Brutalist architecture, prevalent from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, is characterized by its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy.
– *Example*: The Barbican Centre in London is a massive brutalist structure known for its raw concrete and complex design.

4. **Monumentalism**: The building’s grand scale and the way it dominates its environment can be seen as monumental. Monumentalist architecture seeks to inspire awe and is often used in religious buildings, government edifices, and memorials.
– *Example*: The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a prime example of monumental architecture, invoking a sense of reverence and awe.

5. **Minimalism**: The building’s lack of excessive decoration, its straightforward design, and emphasis on functionality can be seen as elements of minimalism. Minimalist architecture seeks to simplify forms to their most basic shapes and eliminate unnecessary details.

– *Example*: The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe exemplifies minimalism with its simple geometric form and open-plan layout.

In summary, the building in the image, even when analyzed outside the context of LDS-specific design, demonstrates a blend of several architectural styles and themes that have been prevalent throughout history.

9 comments for “Temple Architectural Heritages: Provo

  1. Yeah, I don’t know. It kind of has an “Art History 101” feel to it. Passing grade for sure, but I don’t feel like it isn’t saying anything that wasn’t in the lecture notes.

    Not a complaint about the post, of course. I’m just waiting for a productive church use case of AI to show up. Like if we had enough data, the AI brain could dispatch missionaries to people already prepared for a third discussion, or something. What’s the proselytization equivalent of future crime? Or bishops could get an Amazon-like “Have you considered the following three people for these open callings” message when they log on to LDS Tools.

  2. I guess for those of us less educated in this field the lecture notes are still pretty insightful. For example, in the Kirtland post above I completely missed the pointed windows being redolent of gothic architecture. For the more substantive callings-related use cases I do think there’s enough of an emphasis on relying on the spirit, something that separates us from the machines, that there’d be some gut pushback against AI being used in substantive decision making.

  3. One use now being made of AI. or at least machine learning, in the Church is in automated recognition of handwritten names in documents for indexing. Anyone with a Family Search account can participate in training the system. Once you’ve logged in, go to Get Involved > My Opportunities > Name Review. The software reads the handwritten names and offers its interpretation. The human user confirms the result or corrects it manually.

  4. That’s good to know, I was wondering how much longer traditional indexing was going to last with AI handwriting recognition.

  5. I don’t expect manual indexing to go away anytime soon, but yes, it will be gradually supplanted by intelligent processing of handwriting. The final frontier, I imagine, will be handwritten content that’s so bad, most humans can’t decipher it well enough to train the algorithms. Currently, I occasionally do Name Review on signatures from Latin American documents and I would say the handwriting recognition gets it right about 75% of the time.

  6. May I add some historical intelligence (HI?) to your architectural notes? The Provo and Ogden Temples were built at the same time with the same design. The main rationale that I heard was that the round design allowed for several ordinance rooms around the outside, all utilizing the new video presentation, that could then all flow to the celestial room in the middle. Much more economical and efficient at a time when the church was having some financial challenges. The timing, early 1970s shortly after the first moon landing and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, led to sometimes disparaging comparisons with a space ship.

    I much prefer this design to the non-descript replacement that is currently in Ogden. And I resent the hackneyed chopping of the Ogden Tabernacle so that it’s simple elegance would not outshine a temple.

  7. Thank you Charlene! I too bristle when I hear disparaging remakes about the Provo/Ogden temples, and I was married in the Provo temple. I’m also sad that they’re replacing them with more boilerplate designs. Say what you will about the architecture, they were unique, and in general I think a move to standardized temple designs impoverishes is artistically.

  8. I’ve always liked the Provo temple. Never understood by people didn’t or why the church would change it so dramatically

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