The announcement by President Gordon B. Hinckley that the LDS Church will build a "great hall" to accommodate three or four times the number who can be seated in the Tabernacle for religious services, sacred pageants and some community cultural events has raised expectations that Salt Lake City's skyline might be graced by a 20th century architectural symbol consistent with the highest ideals and values of the church while bringing distinctive beauty to the larger community.
The dominant architectural feature one sees approaching Salt Lake City from the west is the triple stacks and ugly hulk of the former Fisher Brewing Co., effectively blocking out the view of the Temple Square area until complete immersion in the freeway maze approaching downtown. Rising above the brewery is the striking building that houses our state government. One wonders what it might have looked like had our present aesthetic and economic values prevailed in earlier and harder times.Salt Lake City is not the only one to allow its architectural treasures to be dwarfed by utilitarian boxes signifying our greed more than our aspirations. The temple spires are overwhelmed by the church's towering administration building that telegraphs its own message. The equally dwarfed Hotel Utah was a landmark, which vied for attention with the treasures of Temple Square. Maurice Abravanel Hall seemed a step in the right direction as its exquisite design tied the new generation to the old reminding all music lovers that the LDS Church provided the Utah Symphony with a home during several decades of growth into a world class orchestra.
The new structure offers a window of opportunity for the church to make a statement of its values that will be viewed by thousands each day. The entire state would benefit from a building that unmistakably suggests the church's spirituality and faith.
Perhaps an answer to both design and traffic flow concerns would be for the church to do a land exchange and replace the defunct brewery with a structure that focuses on the identity of Salt Lake City as headquarters for a worldwide church. There would be ample parking, a neighborhood that could use a shot in the arm, not to mention the removal of an eyesore that effectively obliterates the magnificence of Temple Square to those entering the city.
Ardean W. Watts
Salt Lake City