The Paris LDS Temple

How do you put into words the culmination of years of intense work and anticipation?

In honor of the Open House and subsequent consecration of the new Paris Temple, we wanted to pull together a little post on it. Trouble is, how do you put into words the culmination of years of intense work and anticipation? It’s proven very difficult to describe, so, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll (or March Hare, depending on whom you ask): we’ll start at the beginning.

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It was 2011 when we first became acquainted with the project. None of this would have been possible without leadership within the Temple Department from Brad Houston, who made an incredible impact on Temple Design for a 5 year stretch, guiding it toward a Classical and Traditional idiom, with emphasis on respect for the culture and artistic traditions of the location for each temple. It was his guidance of design direction that facilitated a connection with our friends at MHTN Architects who were designing the long-awaited Temple.

It was a true privilege to be asked to design the Interior Architecture of the “main rooms” of the Temple. By “main rooms” we mean the Grand Stair Hall, the Ordinance Rooms, the Celestial Room, the Sealing Rooms, and the Baptistry, which you can learn more about here. Our work included the art glass ceilings in the Stair Hall and Baptistry;

The Stair Hall and Baptistry railings;

Columns, doors, cased openings, keystones, overdoors, and ceiling medallions;

Decorative painting; wall paneling; door and furniture profiles; mouldings & trim; reflected ceiling plans; the baptismal font itself;

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And parts of the furniture like the carved details for the altars and end panels;

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As well as designing a number of other significant elements, including the exterior doors and hardware;

And most notably, the art glass windows in all areas of the Temple.

Paris-Temple-glass2017-resizedThe design influences are based in the Classical and French Art Nouveau, commonly seen side-by-side in Paris, and elsewhere in France.

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Paris: Classical & Art Nouveau side-by-side

The Floral Designs

A hallmark of the Art Nouveau, we conceived the floral designs to explicitly root the Temple in France. Our goal was the “gesamtkunstwerk” – the “total work of art” or “synthesis of the arts” where all architectural elements and details work in unison to elevate the whole.

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© 2017 by MGLM Architects, Ltd. All rights reserved.

There are countless artisans and artists who contributed to the beauty found in the building. Some we will sadly never meet. Others we had the pleasure of working with, including the talented Tom Holdman and his team of artisans in Utah and Mexico who executed the art glass designs. They brought wonderful suggestions for color and finish to the glass, including using gorgeous opalescent glass from Kokomo Opalescent Glass (KOG) in Indiana (operating since 1888).

We thought KOG was a great suggestion knowing that they won a Gold Medal for their window, awarded at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle which was designed by John La Farge, who incidentally invented opalescent glass. Matt is the Chair of the Preservation Committee for the Auxiliary Board of the Auditorium Theatre here in Chicago, and knew that KOG also provided some of the glass for the windows that won the Silver Medal at the same Paris Exposition, which were designed by Healy & Millet for the Auditorium Theatre.

According to Chicago Historian (and friend) Rolf Achilles, the Healy & Millet windows also won the “Purchase Prize” to be exhibited in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. It’s a much longer story, but the short version is that these windows were subsequently seen by the men who became the foremost European Art Nouveau artists & architects, and, along with some additional exposure for opalescent glass via Siegfried Bing, KOG received thousands of orders for their glass, which was used in Art Nouveau buildings all over France and Europe, and now, in the Paris Temple as well. Of course we are very happy to have furthered the Paris – Chicago – Art Nouveau – Art Glass connection!

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We chose specific flowers as a thematic basis for each room, and used others as a leitmotif. These include Lavender, the Martagon Lily, the Water Lily, the Cornflower, the Lilac, the Hollyhock, and the Madonna Lily.

Lavender represents love, devotion, and cleanliness.

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Lavender Blossom

On the stem, the Martagon Lily represents immortality, and used alone it is purity and innocence.

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Martagon Lily

The Water Lily is emblematic of rebirth.

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Water Lily

The Cornflower represents blessedness, hope in love, and friendship, but we also chose it for the special significance it has in France, being a National Symbol of Remembrance and the eternal symbol of those who died for France in The Great War (WWI). Every year fabric versions are sold to fund the care of veterans. Read more about it’s national significance here.

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Cornflower – Le Bleuet de France

The Lilac represents Christianity and rebirth, as it often blooms around Easter.

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Lilac

The Hollyhock represents generosity, beneficialness, and plenitude, in addition to being a metaphor for spiritual development, as they require full sun to grow and develop.

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Hollyhock

The Madonna Lily represents purity, virtue, faith, and wisdom. Additionally it is often described as the basis for the Fleur-de-Lis, the National Symbol of France.

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Madonna Lily

Our designs were inspired by the flora of the French countryside and our window motifs reference the work of the incredible French glass artists of the past, including Jacques Gruber, Emile Galle, Desire Christian, Les Frères Daum, and Albert Dammouse, among others.

In the design of the glass, Matt also referenced his own personal sketches from the garden of his family in Sussargues, France – made 10 years prior to the work on the Temple. You never know when old sketches will come in handy! Of course it is hard to produce such designs without inspiration from John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany as well.

The progression of the flowers within the windows is a metaphor for a faith-filled experience – starting at the base of the windows there are only buds, representing potential.

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© 2017 by MGLM Architects, Ltd. All rights reserved.

As the eye travels up the windows the buds begin to open and culminate in a full bloom at the top.

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© 2017 by MGLM Architects, Ltd. All rights reserved.

The upward growth is a metaphor for moving toward the light, the ultimate goal of faith being to grow closest to God, and the full blossom represents the fulfillment of potential. The blossoms also gather together as they bloom, representative of the shared experience.

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The windows are designed to be seen together, across the multiple floor levels, from the exterior…

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…which, as we intended, really comes to life after sunset.

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Before the Open House began, we were invited on a “VIP” tour with members of Church Leadership, and visited on the 11th of April. The photos truly do the building no justice. The rooms are ethereal and there’s an incredible sense of peace and grace in the building.

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The entire building is so wonderful that there were moments we were moved to tears. Apparently we were not alone, as we heard more than a few stories of the tears visitors have already shed (of joy!). This is our hope for the years to come, that the beauty here exalts a mundane day into a magnificent one and continues to touch people on an emotional level.

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Things Are Looking Up With Stile Liberty!

Two years ago, E and I had the great fortune of spending a month in northern Italy taking in the Stile Liberty masterpieces there, as well as many of the anonymous-but-still-magnificent fabric buildings that fill the cities we visited. Our primary method of transportation was the original one: walking. In doing so, not only did we attempt to destroy ligaments and tendons, and in the case of E, discover old-but-previously-unknown sports injuries, but we also had an opportunity to observe architecture from all distances and at nearly every scale.

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What became more and more apparent  to us was the disappointing lack of scale and depth that contemporary architecture utilizes. Or more accurately, ignores. As we power-viewed block after block, mile after mile, in complete agony and ecstasy, we were shocked and appalled at how mundane and banal contemporary architecture has become. Mind you, this shock was not because of what we were seeing, but rather, we were comparing architecture seen here to what we know and experience in other environs. (More on that “knowing” in another post).

The Stile Liberty, Stile Floreale, or Italian Art Nouveau is an extension of the Classical Tradition and as such we were viewing the progression of the “humanist” architecture, frozen in that moment in time. And the details were so sumptuous, so supple, that the only way to describe it really is through metaphor: what we saw and experienced in artistic detail on buildings 100+ years old, is the functional equivalent of finding a computer in an archeological dig.

Let me explain that a little better: Given what we know now about how architecture and urbanism affect our daily existence, THIS kind of architecture and detail might as well be from the future. By that I mean, IF buildings are designed to maximize the human experience and promote health and welfare (AS THEY SHOULD BE), and given what we now know about the way our built environment impacts us, architecture going forward from this knowledge, that is to say architecture of the FUTURE, would be designed following the details seen here, from the PAST. And so finding these buildings in neighborhoods over 100 years old, is the equivalent of finding something futuristic, or more accurately, designed to help humans in the future, in an archeological dig.

I have always been aware of the lack of detail, the lack of depth, the lack of scale in contemporary architecture. Hell, I think everyone is to a certain extent, while not always able to put a finger on it. But these beauties made it all more depressingly conspicuous – what with how they all contribute to the built environment, all work to celebrate their place, and all add visual delight to users and passers-by. All replete with architectural ornament.

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After marking the “must see” buildings, we would take a cab or public transit to the most remote mark on the map (at least remote from our hotel) and begin walking back. What happened though, which wasn’t expected, was that we were continually drawn down streets and around corners by a glimpse of something great. Before long, it became a game between us to find the most interesting architecture first, but part of the fun was that it seemed impossible. We were constantly finding something new and interesting. CONSTANTLY.

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More to the point (of this article at least), it wasn’t just a matter of being drawn down the street and then doing the dance of trying to capture as much of the building’s facade as possible in a single photo while negotiating traffic, locals, parked cars, dog shit, and street poles or lamps. After getting the “overall” shot, I was continually and inevitably testing the patience of E drawn across the street right up to the face of the building by some element or another, and what I discovered in those moments is what you see in these photos. It gave me the chance, or perhaps the eyes, to contemplate the elements that make the difference between good architecture and bad architecture so discernible.

That difference comes in the delight of interacting with architecture not just from multiple distances and observing its multiple scales, but also its multiple angles. So many different ways to view a single building, not the least of which was looking directly up! To be fair, contemporary architecture tries to do this on occasion, but generally only as what I call, a “single move.” In other words, if the building engages from multiple angles, and encourages the viewer to walk around it, it fails miserably on the other measurements: multiple scales, details, proportion, ornament, texture, materials, etc. It is a single move, and to use an analogy from figure drawing, it is akin to simply portraying the shadow of the model. Compelling from one perspective or two, but ultimately banal.

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So this is my demand for the world and our goal at MGLM: Architecture which operates at all scales, speaks (nay, sings!) across all distances, employs ornament and detail, draws the viewer closer in wonder and delight, and contributes beauty to the fabric of its environment.  Can you dig it?

Post Script:

The AIA has a current social media campaign that is identified by #ilookup and attempts to elevate the profession by talking up the lofty ideals and efforts of architects. But how is the general public supposed to be inspired or encouraged when the contemporary tripe that is constantly built is nothing worth looking up at, much less looking up to?

In the beginning…

MGLM Architects has a passion for all things designed.  Our focus and training has been in Architecture, Urban Design, and Ornament but the desire to bring beauty to all things has expanded our work to include the arts, furniture, textile, and industrial design.  MGLM approaches each project individually, analyzing and evaluating the challenges specifically, and designing solutions uniquely tailored to resolve the issues.

A little bit about us: we enjoy challenges, obstacles, and Portillo’s Beef-n-Cheddar Croissant (but we disagree on the peppers).  We are passionate about design, sketching, painting, woodworking, and chocolate.  We love Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, and Art. We have an affinity to Voltron and the Ghostbusters.  We work late and enjoy outdoing one another at costume parties.  We believe nothing beats a Lavazza Cremespresso and a soft macaron, except a happy client.  We are prone to superlatives but we always mean it. What some might call fantastic, we call design-as-usual.  We hope that you will contact us to see what we can do for you and your particular project.

In the meantime, please enjoy the posts here.  We intend this to be a collection of the things that inspire and impassion us.  We hope to spend some time highlighting projects, issues, ideas, fantastic (and sometimes horrible) details, and things we find interesting.