LDS Conference Center Welcomes the Faithful
Fulfilling a 150-Year-Old Ambition
Brigham Young himself, who led the Mormons to the Utah Territory in the middle of the 19th century, laid out the large blocks and wide streets of the city, which is also the state capitol. Temple Square is ground zero of the street numeration for Salt Lake City.
The temple is the work of Truman Angel, the first church architect. He was sent by Brigham Young to Europe and was impressed by Saint Peter's in Rome and by the work of Christopher Wren.
Gray, who has had a hand in the design of many recent temples, once had a practice in Portland and was an admirer of Pietro Belluschi, who also influenced the work of Frasca.
According to Gray, the conference center was first discussed in 1861. Brigham Young wanted an assembly hall that would seat 20,000. But the engineers of his time could not deliver at that scale.
Instead, in 1867, the church got the present tabernacle, which seats 6,000, and that has been the limit on seating until now. Twenty-one-thousand-seat, oval shaped arenas are not uncommon. But arranging this many seats in a fan-shaped configuration with a single focal point, centered on a speaker at the pulpit, is unique in the world.
The structure is designed to last at least the next 150 years. The panels of granite that cover the exterior were cut from the earth near the source of the granite used during the 40-year construction of the temple.
An Engineering Marvel
Yet the new facility accommodates the latest technology for acoustics, lighting, theatrical systems, telecommunications, broadcast audio-visual, and security. In the last century, structural and electrical engineering have caught up with the visions of Brigham Young.
Dramatic performance is close to the heart of Mormon culture. Prophetic speech-making, elaborate pageants that reenact scripture, and educational activities involving whole congregations and different levels of church hierarchy are all part of LDS life. In keeping with this tradition, the entire conference building is a stage.
The total area in the conference center is 1.2 million square feet, (108,000 square meters) with interior volume of 9.43 million cubic feet (267,000 cubic meters).
The structural system for the concrete building, designed by KPFF of Seattle, includes 10 radial trusses, each up to 287 feet (86 meters) in length and weighing up to 550 tons (500,000 kilograms). The king truss alone weighs 621 tons (560,000 kilograms).
There are a total of 116,000 cubic yards (88,700 cubic meters) of reinforced concrete in the conference center and 27,000 tons (24,300,000 kilograms) of steel, including reinforcing bar, structural steel, and miscellaneous pieces. The perimeter walls and shear walls are up to 30 inches (75 centimeters) thick.
The numbers that go with the electrical systems are equally mind boggling. The building contains 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) of wire and 780 miles (1250 kilometers) of conduit. There are 330 panels for power circuits and more than 300 panels for lighting.
A tunnel system provides for future cable installation and connects with an under-stage mechanical pit used for theatrical machinery and special effects during pageants.
Because of the enormity of the necessary system, an Ethernet network — with multiple levels of redundancy — was chosen to transmit lighting control commands throughout the building. Some signal distribution runs are as long as 2000 feet (600 meters), and use fiber optic cable as a backbone.
If there is ever an interruption in power supply, the show will go on. There is an uninterrupted power supply for critical systems and an emergency diesel generator with an output of 2000 kilowatts.