Monday, July 22, 2013

Fireside and Final Lift Pour

In preparation for their Temple-to-Temple 5K Run on the 24th, the Provo South Stake held a fireside last night.  Andy Kirby, Senior Project Manager for the LDS Church, shown in this picture as he arrived at the site this morning, was the speaker.
Of the 800 people in attendance, I was one of 600 not from the South Stake, indicating the tremendous interest in the reconstruction of the tabernacle. 
Brother Kirby, a civil engineer, was hired by the Church shortly after the fire.  His remarks were very meaningful.  I am certain you are feeling bad about not being there, but it's OK--I took notes.
As I walked around the site this morning, I thought about his words from last night, in particular as I saw that the fourth tower cap has been moved into the "let's repair these things" position.  Brother Kirby said that to him, there were many symbols from the tabernacle which we could use in our own lives.  The first he named was the fire itself, seen by all to be a great trial.  But just as the Lord is rebuilding the tabernacle into something better, He can strengthen and preserve us as we encounter trials in our lives.
Brother Kirby talked about the new foundation being built.  The pioneers built the best foundation they could.  They dug a trench, filled it with lime mortar and boulders, and this supported the tabernacle for 130 years.  But the new temple needs a much stronger foundation, and as a result it has shoring, piles, footings.  There is even steel in the concrete walls.   He mentioned that the interior diagonal shoring beams have kept the building from tipping. The instructions he received were to build a temple which would last through the Millennium, which he has calculated to be to the end of the world, plus 1000 years.  Just as the temple foundation needs to be very strong, so do our personal foundations.  He suggested that we think of ourselves as a temple rooted firmly upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of Brother Kirby's first tasks was to secure the building from further damage.  Three of the gables were lost when the collapsing roof pulled them down.  Jacobsen workmen made a significant effort to preserve the remaining masonry, which represents the dedication of the early Provo pioneers.  The new roof will be steel, and we were assured it will stand firm.
Brother Kirby told us there was concern that without the roof, the walls might collapse.  Initially, steel frames braced the walls.  As the crews removed the debris, they could tell that the original building was handmade, built with great love and care.  Elder Newitt, a senior Church Service missionary on the site, learned that the early Provo pioneer men were each assessed 50 cents to pay for the tabernacle construction.  Women were assessed 25 cents.  Those who could not pay donated their time, and the Jacobsen workmen soon realized that the tabernacle was built by many hands.  In this picture you can see the shotcrete which covers the interior.  It was sprayed over a frame of rebar, and additional steel bracing can be seen.  Notice the holes in the shotcrete.
Brother Kirby said that the pioneer builders made pockets in the thick walls of the tabernacle into which wooden beams fit and supported the balcony.  Similar pockets were formed in the shotcrete and the new beams will support the floors.  Evidence of the hand-made efforts of the pioneers can be seen in the window opening at the bottom of the photo.  The excellent woodwork of the original balcony will be reflected in the grand staircase, between the first and second levels of the temple.  The Daily Herald printed a special section on the tabernacle yesterday.  The design of the staircase can be seen here.
It does not sound like any of the original art-glass survived the fire.  Brother Kirby said a local artisan will pattern new art-glass after the design of the original glass.  Light from these windows will flow into the 5 sealing rooms and the hallways.
Brother Kirby described the efforts to preserve the masonry.  Notice the three-brick thickness of the walls.  The walls were originally five bricks thick, but to maximize interior space and to salvage usable bricks, two widths of brick were removed.  This picture shows the thickness of the walls with the brick and shotcrete together.  Round prisms or sensors can be seen along the lower portion of this photo.
I often see the workman who uses this transit and those prisms to measure the stability of the tabernacle.  Brother Kirby told us that the tabernacle does have variations in movement.  As the steel beams are warmed by the light of the sun in the morning, the building rises.  Heavy winds have caused worries among the crew, but so far, the piers supporting the tabernacle shell have held firm.
Members of the congregation in attendance last night asked several questions.  If you are familiar with the general layout of temples, you will understand Brother Kirby's explanation that this temple will be similar in arrangement to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, with two A endowment rooms with 96 seats each, and one B endowment room.  The two A rooms will face east on the ground level.  Access to the B room on the upper level will be through stairs in the towers.  There will be five elevators in the new temple, with the designers very conscious about making the temple accessible to everyone.  Brother Kirby mentioned that the towers will remain three levels, while the temple will only have two above-ground levels.  The towers are in keeping with the Victorian Gothic style of the temple, and this design will be further reflected with Gothic arches inside.  He mentioned that the Salt Lake Assembly Hall is also Victorian Gothic and was built about the same time as the Provo Tabernacle.
Brother Kirby said there were many challenges and the construction has been difficult, but he has seen miracles as people who struggled with design or building decisions were inspired with solutions.  One problem was how to fit all the rooms necessary for a temple into the shell of the tabernacle.  I personally thought it was brilliant to expand the lower level of the basement underground to the north.  Perhaps this is the type of inspired solution to which he referred.
Brother Kirby said that at times the work is dangerous, and he asked us to pray for the safety of the workmen.  The red lotus blossoms we've been seeing are caps to prevent the accidental impaling of men on the rebar.
You can see that these men are securely fastened to the foundation wall.  Brother Kirby said their tool belts weigh 60 pounds, more than I'd initially been told.  We did not need reminding that the temperatures at the site the past few weeks have reached 100 degrees or more.  Brother Kirby said he has great respect for the men who are working on the temple, and we could hear that respect as his voice trembled.
We were told last night that the forming of the concrete walls is beautiful, flawless, perfect for a temple.  Of course, those words are coming from a civil engineer, but they appear to be true, nonetheless.  I had earlier been told that the forms are being built around the I-beams.  You can see how that is being done in this photo.  Once the tabernacle is seated firmly on the foundation walls, the I-beams will be removed and the piers cut away.  This picture is of the south foundation wall, which has not yet received its final lift pour.
The north foundation wall, from the northwest tower to just past the middle section, received its final lift pour last Saturday.  This pour was done under pressure and the gasket used for this pour can be seen in the center of the picture.  A sealant was used before the pour between the forms and the tabernacle, and that can be seen here.
Brother Kirby told us that everyone was looking forward to when the tabernacle would "engage concrete."  That is beginning, and hopefully in a few weeks, the weight of the tabernacle will shift from the piers to the concrete foundation, and everyone will sleep better at night.
A member of the congregation asked where the entrance to the temple would be.  Brother Kirby explained that there would be two entrances, and you can see both in this photo.  One will be at ground level, and the other will be the entrance from the underground parking.  The baptistry will be on the east end of the lower level, at the right of this picture.  All expect the baptistry to be at capacity when the temple opens.  The Payson Temple should be open before the Provo City Center Temple is dedicated, and of course the Provo Temple is already in use.
Brother Kirby told us that there would be plenty of underground parking, and when finished, the south lot would be beautifully landscaped around a Victorian pavilion.
Brother Kirby and the designers studied old interior photographs of the tabernacle, some of which he showed us last night.  The original building had a beautiful ceiling which was lost when the center spire began sinking.  The ceiling in one of the endowment rooms will reflect that original ceiling.  As the men work on the temple, they continually see evidence of great thinking, love, care and skill by the original builders and every effort will be made to honor their efforts in the new temple.
President A. LeGrand Richards of the South Stake spoke a few concluding remarks.  He was at the tabernacle the night it burned, very dismayed.  A few days later he returned and saw the picture of Christ which survived the fire.  That picture spoke to him, and he felt that he heard, "Richards, do you know whose house this is?  If I want to remodel, what's that to you?"  He tenderly said that if we want to remake our lives, the Lord will help us.
Brother Kirby told us that the picture is in the hands of the Church History Department.  It will not hang in the new temple but might be displayed elsewhere.


Melanie Ferguson said...

I have been following this amazing blog daily, but today's words really touched me. thanks, Julie, for sharing.

A.I.R. - an idiot's rant said...

Thank you so much for all of these posts. I follow this blog with great interest and always look forward to the next installment. All of the detailed information is fascinating!

Unknown said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your dedication to this blog project. You have given a great deal of your time to keep us well informed. Thank you so much.

dSquared said...


Unknown said...

Amazing. What a marvelous gift to have all these delightful pictures. Thanks