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What will replace the fountain in front of the Church Office Building and why?

The first stage of a major project to upgrade landscaping and improve sight lines around the Salt Lake Temple announced

The fountain in front of the Church Office Building on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City has been leaking for years and will be removed and replaced by dozens of national flags from countries around the world.

The changes are the first stage of a major project to upgrade landscaping and improve sight lines around the Salt Lake Temple while it continues to undergo its four-year renovation.

A rendering that illustrates the planned changes and a site plan showing the work were released Monday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The first stage will take 18 months and will improve the landscaping on the Church Office Building plaza.

The plaza runs west to east from what was Main Street to State Street, with the Relief Society Building and Church Office Building on the north side and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and Church Administration Building on the south side.

The site plan for new landscaping on the Church Office Building plaza on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It also spells the end for the fountain that was planned at least as early as 1960 as part of a major project that included an extensive temple renovation in the 1960s and construction of the 28-story Church Office Building, which opened in 1972.

The fountain had been a popular place for photographs, but the system that circulated water for the fountain and the landscaping has been leaking. The leak from the water system and concrete deck threatened the underground church employee parking garage below the plaza.

LDS Conference Sun—Conference attendees pause for photographs near the church office building water fountain Oct 7th, 2001. Allred/photo
Latter-day Saints gather between sessions of general conference to take photographs near the Church Office Building water fountain on Oct. 7, 2001.
Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

The new plaza will include a new waterproofing system. It also will feature changes that will open up space and increase the visibility of the temple from the east.

Once the landscaping between the Church Office Building and Church Administration Building is done, workers will begin work on new landscaping on Main Street Plaza. The goal is to streamline the two blocks that now make up Temple Square.

Temple Square originally consisted of the single, 10-acre block where the Salt Lake Temple and Tabernacle stand between Main Street and West Temple. The church purchased the stretch of Main Street between North and South Temple streets from the city in 1999 and turned it into a plaza. Now, the church considers Temple Square to sprawl across two massive blocks from West Temple to State Street, including the Main Street Plaza — a total of 35 acres.

A rendering of the two-block Temple Square that shows closures during construction work.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Our design of the landscaping on this plaza and around the temple will open up access and views to the temple and make it more inviting for people to feel welcome here on the grounds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Andy Kirby, the church’s director of historic temple renovations, in a statement.

He said that when the renovation is done, the landscaping across the broader Temple Square will be seamless.

The fountain south of the Church office building is seen with a dusting of early morning snow as seen from the Joseph Smith Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 16, 2006. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News PH
The fountain south of the Church office building is seen with a dusting of early morning snow as seen from the Joseph Smith Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 16, 2006. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News PH
August Miller, August Miller/Deseret Morning Ne

Church leaders first revealed plans to upgrade the landscaping across Temple Square during the renovation when President Russell M. Nelson announced the Salt Lake Temple renovation in April 2019. The renovation project began a year ago and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

“We promise that you will love the results,” President Nelson said.

Kirby said the redesigned Church Office Building plaza will recognize the church’s 16.5 million members in 196 nations and territories.

A pedestrian walks near the fountain outside the LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 1, 2016.
A pedestrian walks near the fountain outside the LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 1, 2016.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“We will remove this fountain and we’ll have a large circle of flags here from many nations of the world to celebrate the international nature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said.

Workers already have opened walls around Temple Square to improve the temple’s visibility. New guest and visitor pavilions will be constructed.

The formal entry to the temple, called the recommend desk, will be in a grand hall underground. As announced previously, a new guest access tunnel will be built under North Temple Street to allow access to the hall from the Conference Center parking garage. Pedestrians will walk down stairs from the street to the hall and to the recommend desk, which will sit below large skylights providing natural light and sight lines to the temple towering above.