The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) temple in Tijuana Mexico is more than just a religious structure. Church leaders wanted it to be a powerful statement to the people of Tijuana, says Wallace Cooper, of CRSA, the architect for the project. “There was a conscientious effort to create a temple that said: ‘you are incredibly important to our church.’”
The temple design went through three iterations, with each successive set of drawings pushing the designers to go further, and to create a more visually striking structure that would stand out against the crowded Tijuana backdrop. “It had to be something that was truly outstanding,” he says.
Precast concrete was chosen early on in the process because it was the only material that could deliver the soaring design and sophisticated details that the church desired. “With each iteration, the precast pieces became more complicated and intricate in detail and jointing,” he says.
The final design is a three-story structure with a stucco white facade that mimicks the traditional plaster finish common in Mexico’s architecture. The entrance features three ornate arches reaching two-stories high, and the spire is flanked by precast concrete scrolls at each corner.
According to Cooper, the ornate pieces and sweeping scale forced CRS’s team to look for creative strategies to conceal joints. To do this, they designed the facade using overlapping panels and columns, so that the final structure has only one horizontal seam spanning the circumference of the building.
The designers were also eager to eliminate wall mount holes on the back of the precast concrete panels to keep the building enclosure tight and avoid the need for backfilling. Typically, precast concrete panels will leave interior opening for wall mounts but Willis Construction, the precast concrete producer on the project, came up with a system that enabled all of the panels to be mounted from the exterior of the building, completely eliminating the interior holes. “There would have been up to 1000 holes to fill with the traditional system, but with our design there were none,” Cooper says. The innovative mounting strategy saved time on the project allowing subcontractors to start working on internal features while the exterior was still under construction. “It was an amazing solution.” he added.
The designers also worked with only local craftsman for construction, and a local precast concrete facility to create the panels, which allowed the team to avoid expensive cross-border taxes. Cooper admits he was initially concerned about finding the right local teams to do the job—but he need not have been. “The final work was fantastic, and everyone did a great job,” he says.
Cooper says the project was finished in June 2014, and the owners are so happy with the result that they are now modeling other churches across South America on this project. He says, “It has changed the way the church designs its temples.”