Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inside the great and spacious building

Tobi and I took advantage of the three-day Memorial Day weekend for a quick trip to visit my friends in Utah.

While we were there, Tobi got the bright idea that he wanted to go hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform. (He can be such a Japanese tourist sometimes. I honestly think he was born with palm-sized digital camera in his hand. And, yes, it's one of the reasons I love him.)

We figured out that the best way to see the famous choir in action was to go to the Sunday morning "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast. In case you don't know, this broadcast moves to the Conference Center on North Temple during the summer. In the winter it takes place in the Tabernacle. (I think it has to do with the summer tourist crowds.)

I don't know if I'm the only person who's noticed this, but the conference center seems to be the realization of the "great and spacious building" from Lehi's dream in The Book of Mormon. Not only is it gargantuan, it has terraces that overlook the recently uncovered City Creek and hanging gardens on the roof. Go back and read the description in the BoM and compare it. Seriously.

[While I'm on the topic of architecture, I have to say that Salt Lake has some pretty interesting examples that range from amazing to embarrassing. My personal favorites are the new public library (I want to move in), the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Moran Eye Center and the old library on State Street, next to the Alta Club. The biggest architectural embarrassment is the overtly phallic LDS Church office building, with its two large globes flanking a tipped tower.]

Anyway, on Sunday Tobi and I walked into the Conference Center. I was wearing sandals because I didn't pack any dress shoes, and of course there's the small issue of my goatee. Tobi was his usual adorable self. No one hassled us exactly, but we did get a little more attention from security than the other folks walking in the front door. It's a Utah thing (or just xenophobia). Mixed-race couples are not very common in Utah.

The program inside the Conference Center had a Memorial Day theme, and consequently there was a bit of flag waving. The Temple Square Orchestra accompanied the choir. I thought of Peter Danzig and his wife who last year would have been on stage with the orchestra. Too much information. I tried to focus on the music instead of the unfortunate political purge.

Overall, I felt a sense of contradiction. I was glad to show Tobi a little bit of the culture that produced me, but the experience was bittersweet for me. It was probably the unreasonable scale of the building that caused me to feel this way. You shouldn't put an orchestra in a hall the size of four airplane hangars. :- )

[BTW, the flowers on stage were hideously arranged, and I'm just being objective here, not critical. Memo to the powers that be: orange and fuschia zinnias are all you get when you're mean to gay people.]

To make a long story short... the choir did its thing, and we escaped back to our natural habitat: brunch at the Oasis Cafe (151 S 500 E, SLC).


P.S. Here are a few Japanese restaurant recommendations, which are the result of Tobi's digging around. Takashi (18 W Market St, SLC) is probably the best Japanese restaurant in Salt Lake. A less expensive but still excellent alternative is Kyoto (1080 E 1300 S, SLC), which is also very authentic.


[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

Thanks for the Japanese restaurant recommendations. I'll definetely have to go check them out ASAP.

I've never been to the Oasis Café, but I hear it is good.

I know what you mean about that feeling you get around Mormon things. It's weird to be on temple square and see all the "shiny happy people" and yet know that there is this ugly, oppressive, destructive part to it all. The façade just doesn't match what's underneath, and it's unfortunate, really.

Oh, and just yesterday I was explaining the hideous phallicness of the church office building to my roommmate. He didn't believe me.

And now I must to work.

Beck said...

I always thought of the Church Office Building as the "great and spacious building", but now that you have so aptly described it I will forever have a different image in mind. :)

The Conference Center looks like a prison to me. The waterfall and spire just don't work with the heavy aboding granite mass. It is a very depressing structure that is overly sterile.

The new Church History Museum across the street just continues this brooding, dark and uninspiring architecture. It depresses me that such additions surrounding the temple are so dull. Maybe that's on purpose so that the surrounding Church campus does not outshine the one gem among the stark complex.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Craig!!!

Tell me what you think if you happen to go to any of these restaurants.

Hey Beck!!!

I can't say why the church's recent monuments have gone this way. I sometimes think architecture is a window into the soul. For example, Soviet architecture is somehow consistent with murderous authoritarianism. You can just see it.

The LDS Church's recent additions to Temple Square seem bland and arrogant to me.

The Temple is an architectural treasure, however, and the church has done a good job of keeping it visible even though there are some larger buildings nearby.

Mormon Soprano said...

Well, I'm glad that you and Tobi came to the Sunday broadcast despite it all! Hopefully you enjoyed the music. - God Bless :)

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Mormon Soprano!!!

I enjoyed the music. Were you in the choir? If so, thanks and congratulations.

playasinmar said...

The new public library is amazing.

C'mon with the great spacious building nonsense; Lehi's dream wasn't about a building. It was about a certain group of some bodies who were being rather obnoxious...

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Playasinmar!!!

I'm glad you like the library, too. I haven't met anyone who has anything but raves for the place. Maybe it will convince me to move back to Salt Lake.