The Mormon Temple in Belmont, MA, sits on the second-highest peak of the Boston Metropolitan area, evoking the image of ancient castles. But this majestic structure, unlike a fortified castle, is not positioned to keep people out. Rather, the Belmont Mormon Temple was designed to invite the religious faithfuls in. Contributing to this welcoming effect is the structure's surrounding landscape, which features Caledonia granite - quarried by Polycor, Inc. of Quebec, Canada, at its own Canadian quarries.

“The color tone and texture of the stone complements the white granite of the building nicely, providing a slightly darker contrast,” said Project Architect Greg Luongo, AIA, of Tsoi / Kobus & Associates based in Cambridge, MA. “This helps to visually anchor the building to the site.” Carol R. Johnson & Associates of Boston was responsible for the landscape design.

Luongo explained that the walls were curved in a sinuous fashion to create a level platform for the temple to sit on its spectacular hilltop location. And, to properly enjoy the site and tranquility of the garden space, approximately 14 Caledonia granite benches were positioned for visitors to take in their surroundings. Polycor also fabricated Caledonia fence posts and curbs, entrance piers and additional stairways.

“The landscaping and garden-like setting on the site was an integral part of the temple's environment,” said the project architect. “This promotes contemplative worship for this most sacred of buildings for the Church.”

The architect went on to say that the castle reference was not actually intentional when the temple's architectural plans were conceived. “I suppose it certainly lends itself to that kind of observation,” he said. “I think the project's stone walls provide both a symbolic and physical sense of stability and strength to the project.”

Selecting granite

Some of the granite's desirable characteristics, including superior resistance to impacts and abrasions, impervious characteristics that make it resistant to freeze/thaw cycles and de-icing agents, environmentally sound make-up, long-lasting reputation and unmatched strength, made it ideal for the temple's outdoor gardens.

“Not only is it more durable, but the granite is also not affected by elements such as calcium or salt. Also, unlike poured-in-place materials, granite can be re-used again for other installations,” said Martin Roy, general manager of Polycor Granite Curbs, Inc., which is based in Riviere-a-Pierre, PQ, Canada. “For many outdoor applications, the Caledonia look is what architects seem to want. Even though the Caledonia quarry was first opened more than 70 years ago, the material still remains very popular. It is estimated that there is more than 1,000 years of reserves in the quarry, so it can remain popular for a long time.”

In total, an excess of 26,000 square feet of Caledonia granite was utilized in the temple's landscaping. The majority of the material was employed for the structure's retaining walls - ranging in height from 12 to 14 feet. Consisting of split-face granite, the walls are decorated by pilasters, which appear almost every 20 feet and measure the total height of the wall. Adorning each pilaster, granite piers, measuring 4 feet square by 8 feet, 4 inches high, feature a flamed reveal alongside the four faces of the corners and four-way rooftops.

“The project also involves a curved wall with split face material, topped with radius caps,” said Clermont Perron of Polycor. “Alongside are granite treads that create the two radius stairs (left and right), which run along these walls.”

A multi-story, 70,000-square-foot building containing meeting rooms, a font area, ordinance rooms, sealing rooms and chapels, the Mormon Temple serves the Latter-Day Saints of New England. The temple is used for baptisms, marriages and other special ceremonies. In addition, the temple also houses dining facilities and associated administrative support areas.

All involved were pleased with the outcome of the project. “We are proud to have been the construction manager on the temple project,” said Bryon Bratt of Barr & Barr Builders of Framingham, MA, the company's marketing director. “We believe the project was a success on all levels.”

Most importantly, members of the Mormon Temple are extremely pleased with the project and the elaborate landscaping. “It is like a Garden of Eden,” said Harry Voglio, assistant recorder at the temple. “Thousands of flowers are in bloom outside and later in the summer the roses will be interspersed with the granite benches. It is absolutely beautiful.”

End Box

Mormon Temple
Belmont, MA

Architect: Tsoi / Kobus & Associates, Cambridge, MA
Landscape Architect: Carol R. Johnson & Associates, Boston, MA
Construction Manager: Barr & Barr Builders, Framingham, MA
Stone Quarrier/Fabricator: Polycor, Inc., Quebec, Canada