The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has revised its plans for the ongoing renovation of Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple to include the famed North Visitors Center — home of a notable Christus statue and many sister missionaries. The center will be torn down and replaced with gardens.
Temple Square’s South Visitors Center, a much smaller facility that housed a pretty awesome cutaway model of the Salt Lake Temple in front of it, was included in the original plans for the Square’s revitalization. But just as the plans for the Salt Lake Temple itself changed once the work started, the decision makers at Church HQ have decided the much larger and more prominent North Visitors Center has outlived its usefulness.
Andy Kirby, the Church’s director of historic temple renovations, noted the change aligns with Church President Russell M. Nelson’s desire to “enhance, refresh and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds.” He said that tearing down the multi-level visitors center “will also provide a more direct and clear view of the Salt Lake Temple from the northwest area of Temple Square, enhancing the prominence of the temple.” In the visitors center’s place will be a series of gardens and “contemplative spaces.” We have no idea what “contemplative spaces” means that would differentiate them from gardens, but we are hoping for some sort of excellent water feature that leaves one marooned, isolated, and lost with little more than a view of the temple as a glimmer of hope.
Wow, that got dark.
So which site lines need improving? The temple itself is plainly visible from the front of the visitors center or on the lawn between the visitors center and the Tabernacle.
Trees appear to be the enemy here. Shall we destroy the trees and make some thneeds?
The temple is also easily seen from the large window in the room with the Christus.
However, where views are truly marred is from outside Temple Square, and demolishing the visitors center and tearing down exterior walls will align with the same plans the temple renovation project has had since the beginning — to make the temple more visible and improve sight lines to it.
Check out this screenshot from the northwest corner of North Temple and West Temple:
Temple Square has long been something of a literal walled garden, and this location illustrates the need for removing the visitors center to achieve the goal of making the temple more visible.
Of course, one must merely back up a hundred feet or so to see spires aplenty.
The North Visitors Center was designed by architect Edward Anderson and built in 1963. The center has hosted more than missionary opportunities. It has been the location of notable art exhibits, film and multimedia experiences, and of course, the 11-foot statue of Jesus Christ that dominates the space.
The statue, a replica of the original sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen and found in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark, will be placed in storage and reinstalled elsewhere on Temple Square at the end of the renovation.
Those interested in seeing a smaller replica of the Christus statue as well as the cutaway model of the Salt Lake Temple may do so at the Conference Center across the street from Temple Square.