Lead architect of Abravanel Hall says demolition plans are motivated by disposable mentality

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SALT LAKE CITY — Abravanel Hall was part of a bicentennial project in 1976 in downtown Salt Lake City, which included the Capitol Theatre and the Salt Lake Arts Center.

Four men, Robert Fowler, Franklin Ferguson, Ray Kingston and Edward Joe Ruben created FFKR Architects, Utah's top-ranked firm.

They were also the creative minds for what became Symphony Hall in 1979, renamed Abravanel Hall for maestro Maurice Abravanel, music director for 32 years in 1984. Roger Jackson joined the firm in 1984 and is now a collaborating principal or consultant, having recently retired.

"The vision was this great concert hall," Jackson said.

He showed KSL-TV a wall of photos of FFKR projects through the decades, including his. The wall includes the Salt Lake Temple, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the BYU Jerusalem Center and a number of Latter-day Saint temples.

In creating Symphony Hall, he said his colleagues wanted a midcentury modern building that would not only make a statement but would remain.

"We should be thinking, 'This is going to last 100 years; this is going to last 200 years,'" he said.

Jackson believes Americans live in a disposable culture, always looking for something new.

"We don't have the heritage, conservation mentality that I think we should, that our friends in Europe do. That's why they have 500-year-old buildings," Jackson said.

We need to understand design, he said. An orchestra is only as good as it sounds; the acoustics are key. Before the new concert hall, the Utah Symphony performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, which has challenging acoustics for an orchestra.

"It was a step into 'the big time' to have a concert hall of their own and a good one!" Jackson said.

The plaza is supposed to invite patrons in and create excitement on approach. And even after a concert, to light the way home.

"At night, when it's brighter inside than (outside), you can see (inside), and it becomes like a beacon to the city," he said.

The grand staircase in the lobby was designed so that visitors can "see and be seen." Think of the grand staircases in concert halls and theaters around the world.

"That stair in that lobby makes that experience," he said.

Jackson said any landmark should be something that moves you. He believes his mentors created just such a building with Abravanel Hall.

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