The Meadow on the Roof

April 11, 2004 | 4 comments
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I just returned from a quick trip to Salt Lake. My father was sealed to his wife in the Salt Lake Temple early Saturday morning and it was a beautiful occasion. I had an hour to spare after the celebratory breakfast, and Sister Hinckley’s funeral was nearly over, so I headed north to the Conference Center for a tour. The tour included the impressive 21,000 seat arena, Arnold Friberg’s original Book of Mormon paintings series, and several interesting examples of Mormon folk art. It was the roof, however, that I found most interesting.

The four-acre roof mostly consists of a relatively formal plaza, with fountains, monuments, pathways, gardens, and a spire. I think it’s a great use of space and contributes to an overall building profile which is surprisingly minimal for a structure of that size. Off to the western side of the roof is a field that, at first distant glance, looks like a slightly-cared-for vacant lot from anywhere in Utah or Idaho. Yes and no. The Church service missionary guiding our tour explained that the meadow was a careful reconstruction of high-desert mountain fields, containing only indigenous plants and trees. In other words, it is a snapshot of what the first pioneers may have seen as they wended their way toward Emigration Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley — all wild grasses, gnarled bristlecone pines, and sego lilies. It’s a perfect touch. Looking out over the Church’s ever-expanding downtown campus, and then over the sprawling Salt Lake Valley, the meadow serves as a welcome reminder of both the natural beauty of the region, as well as the collective effort that transformed such a wilderness into a pretty, great place.

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4 Responses to The Meadow on the Roof

  1. Russell Arben Fox on April 12, 2004 at 8:40 am

    Congratulations to your family, Greg. Melissa and I were also greatly impressed with the roof of the conference center, when we had a chance to visit it for the first time last March. Truly, it’s an impressive and beautiful work of landscaping. Our guide actually suggested that the whole arrangement of the roof was imitative of the mountain environment: water tumbling down from the high meadows, passing quaking aspen and other trees at a lower level, and then cascading down a waterfall into the valley, which is the bottom of center. Unfortunately, except perhaps at conference time, I’m not sure anyone can just go up there and enjoy the space as a public resource; there didn’t appear to be any regular open access to it, and when our kids started (not too rambunctiously) running up and down the roof following the flowing water, a couple of security guys came up to Melissa and I and told us that we had to keep our kids, and ourselves, with our guide at all times, or else we’d have to leave. I can see the reasoning behind keeping it a relatively controlled and restricted place, but still, it’s kind of a loss.

  2. Mardell on April 12, 2004 at 11:52 am

    If I had a dollar for everytime a securtiy guard told me to control my kids, I would be well on my way to being a millionaire.

  3. Charles on April 12, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    My wife and I took that tour a few years ago over Thanksgiving. The roof was closed, but the rest of the tour was incredible. I’m looking forward to going back over the spring or summer.

    If I had a dollar for everytime a security guard told me to control my kids, I would encourage my kids to act out more when we go out. :) just kidding, I don’t have any kids yet but couldn’t resist.

  4. BDemosthenes on April 12, 2004 at 4:15 pm

    I think part of the concern stems from the incident a couple years back in which a kid fell and the parents either sued or threatened. Some lawyerly type [do we have any of those around here?] probably remembers the details better.