2020 TWiM Temple Awards: The Winners

Temple Awards Final
Cory Ward

Cory Ward

After a tight race, we now have the winners across numerous categories for the best temple designs of 2020.

The Year 2020 has been a big year for temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite the fact that operating temples have closed or been opened with limited capacity, temple construction has not been impeded. In addition, the church held 21 socially distanced groundbreakings for planned temples in 2020.

From November 2019 to November 2020, there were a whopping 25 temple renderings released to the public (many of them conspicuously lacking the presence of a certain golden angel). At the end of 2020, readers of This Week in Mormons Voted for their favorite temple designs for the following categories:

  • Best Appeal to Local Architecture
  • Best Modern Design
  • Modest is Hottest
  • Most Deserved Temple
  • Best in the United States
  • Best in Latin America
  • Best in Asia
  • Best in Oceania or Africa
  • Best Single-Story
  • Best Multi-Story
  • Temple of the Year (Best overall)

“Best” in this case refers primarily to architectural components –Best Appeal to Local Style, Best Small Temple, Best Multi-story Temple, etc. We recognize that no temple is actually better than another for what it is—The House of the Lord—but we can still rank the appearance of each one! This is just for fun, so feel free to take issue with any of the choices.

Please note that the Bangkok Thailand temple was redesigned in December of 2019 without an Angel Moroni Statue. The Original rendering was released in March 2018.

Without further ado, here are the results of the voting:

 

Best appeal to Local Architecture

Winner: Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple

Runner-Up: Brasília Brazil Temple

Honorable Mention: Bangkok Thailand Temple (redesign)

Coming out of the Gate, Phnom Penh takes the first award. This Latter-day Saint Temple is being built in a nation that is 98% Buddhist. President Nelson visited Cambodia in November of 2019 and surprised the audience of church members by personally revealing the rendering of the temple. A local member, Soksannang Kang remarked: “I like the design very much because it is representative to my culture.” When the rendering was released, Geoff Openshaw wrote in TWiM: “The deliberate Khmer style used here in Phnom Penh is amazing. Even look at the fence!” This temple was also the first of a long trend of temples that lacked an Angel Moroni statue that would continue into 2020. A month later, the church updated their rendering of the Bangkok Thailand Temple that removed the statue from the initial design.

Even 20 years ago, it may have been shocking to see a Latter-day Saint temple that may be confused with a Buddhist Temple. Is has not been until the last decade that the church has designed temples that look anything like a Spanish Catholic Building, let alone that of a building reminiscent of a traditional Asian religion. Therefore it is exciting to see temple architecture embracing a more universal tradition.

 

Best Modern Design

Winner: Brasília Brazil Temple

Runner-Up: Red Cliffs Utah Temple

Honorable Mention: Alabang Philippines Temple

Brasília was bested by Phnom Penh in the last category, but it surely was a shoe in for Best Modern Design. When the rendering was released Geoff remarked:

If you’re unfamiliar with Brazil’s capital, you might wonder why on earth the Church is building something that looks borderline Googie. Brasilia, however, was master planned in the 1950s to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to a more central location. The sprawling government campus, as well as other buildings, is a wonderful representation of modernist design, and the Church, as part of its ongoing efforts to make temple architecture more reflective of the region … figured this was a great chance to pay homage not only to Brasilia, but to a country that has been fertile ground for the growth of the Church. Hats off to whoever asked for this or to the designers that swayed the temple committee in their favor.

Brasília is a great fit for this award. The Red Cliffs Utah Temple took second. It is the largest of the temples in 2020 by square footage. The color of the temple complements the name of the second temple in the City of St George, officially known as the ambiguously named Washington County Utah Temple until it was renamed. The second temple in the Metro Manila Philippines area received honorable mention. Located in the City of Muntinlupa, TWiM nailed this temple prediction before the it was announced in April 2017.

 

Modest is Hottest

Winner: Harare Zimbabwe Temple

Runner-Up: Neiafu Tonga Temple

Honorable Mention: Davao Philippines Temple

It was good to see news about the Harare Zimbabwe Temple. Announced in 2016 by President Monson, it was the temple that had passed the most time without a groundbreaking. With the single story, brick Façade, and simple spire, this temple has been chosen has the most modest temple. When the rendering was released, Breklyn Miles wrote in TWiM:

“The design is straightforward. Honestly, you’d be forgiven for mixing this up with a meetinghouse in a random North American locale if you didn’t know any better. But as we’ve learned from many a Saturday morning special, it’s what’s inside that counts. And the saints of Zimbabwe, currently assigned to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, will be grateful to have this sacred building in their midst.”

Indeed, the Harare Temple resembles the Provo Multi-Stake Building (known by many as the MSB, BYU students love their acronyms). At 17,000 square feet, it is certainly similar in size. However, the stained glass windows do look nice.

 

Most Deserved Temple

Winner: Bengaluru India Temple

Runner-Up: Bangkok Thailand Temple

Honorable Mention: Harare Zimbabwe Temple

Upon becoming church president, President Nelson literally circled the globe when he embarked on a “world ministry tour.” When the tour was announced, it included a stop in Bengaluru, India. At the meeting with church members, President Nelson revealed the following:

“Our plans were to announce six new temples at conference time, The Lord told me on the eve of conference: ‘Announce a temple in India.’ … That was the Lord's doing.”

With over a billion people and at a great distance from the temples (operating or announced), India is definitely deserving of a temple. The 14,000 members and four stakes represent a sliver of the population of India and church membership. Therefore it is inspiring to see this temple get announced. Like the temple in Phnom Penh, this temple design draws heavily from the local traditions. This area of India is majority Hindu and has great illusions to Hoysala architecture.

 

Best in the United States

Winner: Taylorsville Utah Temple

Runner-Up: Red Cliffs Utah Temple

Honorable Mention: Bentonville Arkansas Temple

The newest temples in Utah have been relatively straightforward designs, nothing too adventurous. The temple in Tooele Valley temple has a nice nod to pioneer architecture with its copper copula. But the Taylorsville temple fully embraces the pioneer spirit of Utah. Most church members will think of the Provo City Center Temple when they will see this temple. However, unlike Provo, the  temple in Taylorsville is not located in a downtown. Instead it is in a suburban neighborhood and adjacent to an interstate highway. Across the street is a run-down strip mall filled with fast food restaurants, an empty grocery store, a vaping store, a payday loans joint, and Fiiz Drinks. Maybe the church will have to bulldoze the place to preserve the environment around the temple. Hey, why not build an upscale shopping mall?

But seriously, will this temple become the next hot spot for sealings in Utah? Victorian and gothic architecture is really popular in Utah. The Salt Lake and Provo City Center Temples host a lot of sealings every week. Perhaps this is an elaborate scheme to ease the weekly demand from these temples. Bentonville took honorable mention. This temple was predicted often on TWiM until it was finally announced in 2019.

 

Best in Latin America

Winner: Brasília Brazil Temple

Runner-Up and Honorable Mentions: Antofagasta Chile Temple, Mendoza Argentina Temple, San Pedro Sula Honduras Temple

Yes indeed, Brasília takes this award was well. Special mention to Antofagasta, Mendoza, and San Pedro Sula for getting a three way tie for second place. Mendoza took a modern approach, which is said to complement the city.  Meanwhile, Antofagasta and San Pedro Sula took the Spanish Baroque Mission style, although not as ambitious as Puebla or Tijuana.

 

Best in Asia

Winner: Bengaluru India Temple

Runner-Up: Bangkok Thailand Temple

Honorable Mention: Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple

Really no surprise here, the South Asian temple swept up in this category. Sorry, Philippines.

 

Best in Oceania or Africa

Winner: Auckland New Zealand Temple

Runner-Up: Neiafu Tonga Temple

Honorable Mention: Pago Pago American Samoa Temple

Besides being overshadowed in the other categories, there were many great temple designs in Pacifica area this year. The second temple in New Zealand was the winner in this category. Its a simple design, the Maori designs in the decals and friezes are a nice touch. The temple is being built in-between the New Zealand MTC and a meetinghouse. The location was hardly a surprise. The church submitted a site plan document to the city in 2006. It featured a “future religious learning facility,” –obviously a temple. The twin temples in Tonga and American Samoa took second and third.

 

Best Single-Story

Winner: Brasilia Brazil Temple

Runner-Up: Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple

Honorable Mention: McAllen Texas Temple

Again, Brasília and Phnom Penh did well in this category. Honorable Mention goes to McAllen for another great Spanish Baroque Mission style design in 2020.

 

 Best Multi-Story 

Winner: Taylorsville Utah Temple

Runner-Up: Bangkok Thailand Temple (redesign)

Honorable Mention: Bengaluru India Temple

See, what did we tell you about Utah Victorian temples? Everybody loves them!

Without Further ado, here are the results of the overall temple of the year…

 

Temple of the Year (Best overall)

Winner: Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple

Runner-Up: Bengaluru India Temple 

Honorable Mention: Brasilia Brazil Temple

Phnom Penh takes it! Congratulations to everyone that will be blessed from these temples. No matter how each temple appears, all offer the same blessings to everyone who aspires to enter. Thanks for voting and for reading This Week in Mormons. Let’s all hope 2021 will be a great year for the progress of temple work around the globe.

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