In the mid-19th Century, Brigham Young, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and founder of the Utah territory, sent his son Don Carlos to an architectural university in upstate New York. It was there at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that Don Carlos gained architectural training that served him well when he helped design the Salt Lake Temple years later.
About a century and a half afterward, Tooele resident David Hall obtained a degree from the same school en route to becoming the director of temple design services for the LDS church, and has since been involved in the construction and design of more than one third of the LDS temples in construction or operation around the globe.
Hall, 50, has been a self-proclaimed art nerd since his early school years. He participated in art shows throughout those years and often stayed late at his school’s art lab to work on his crafts.
“I used to ride the bus home with the football players because I’d stay late and paint after school,” said Hall. “Most of my afternoons were spent staying after school and having additional personal studio time.”
Hall was born and raised in Fitchburg, Mass. Beyond painting, he found an interest in designing buildings. He received the two scholastic awards for achievement in art at the Massachusetts state level — both for architectural art pieces. His conceptual design skills were enough to get him admission to the renowned Rensselaer Institute.
At the age of 18, he joined the LDS church and eventually took time off from his studies to serve a mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During his time there, ground was broken for the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple, which he has been lucky enough to work on during the last few years while it has been undergoing reconstruction.
“I never dreamed as a full-time missionary there, watching the temple get built, that I’d ever have the opportunity to participate in such work, and yet, it’s happened,” said Hall.
After graduating from Rensselaer, Hall worked for an architectural firm in Albany, N.Y. He moved to Utah to work for the LDS church a decade later in 1996, when he discovered that the LDS church was looking for an architect to work on a renovation project for Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. While on that job, he was able to work closely with the project managers from the temple construction department of the church and eventually wound up working in that sector.
Before moving to temples, Hall had a five-year stint as the director of the Worldwide Meetinghouse Standard Plan program, which developed all the present designs for typical church meetinghouses around the globe. His work on temples began in 2002 as head of temple construction, and for the past five years, he has been head of temple design.
Former LDS church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who passed away in 2008, has been remembered for spearheading a surge in temple construction around the globe. Benefiting from that surge, Hall has been involved in 51 of the 166 temples currently in operation, announced or under construction for the church, in addition to seven that have been reconstructed and rededicated.
Hall said he is able to travel an average of once a month to temple sites, which have ranged from the upcoming Brigham City temple to the Kinshasa temple in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One of his favorite projects he is currently working on is the transformation of the Provo Tabernacle into the Provo City Center Temple, which will begin construction this year. He has training and experience working on similar projects, because he has been a part of renovations on the Salt Lake Tabernacle in the past.
“My training at Rensselaer was primarily in adaptive reuse of historic structures, particularly 19th-century structures,” said Hall. “This past fall, the brethren [LDS church leaders] announced that the Provo Tabernacle would actually be reconstructed as the Provo City Center Temple, and that combined all my loves to be able to do an adaptive reuse of a 19th-century facility and build a temple at the same time. It’ll be a marvelous facility and a great addition to downtown Provo.”
Other favorite projects of his include the Rexburg Idaho Temple and the Kiev Ukraine Temple, which is close to his heart for one reason in particular.
“Anna [the Halls’ youngest daughter] is adopted from the Ukraine,” said Hall. “We were already working on the design for the Kiev Temple when it came into my wife’s and my heart to go to Ukraine and adopt a child. We actually had an opportunity, when we obtained Anna from the orphanage, with court approval, to actually take her to the Ukraine temple site before the construction began.”
Another location Hall found engaging was the temple site in Aba, Nigeria.
“It took about 52 hours to get there from Salt Lake,” he said. “It’s a remote location in the world, and it was particularly fascinating to be there and to build in that country and climate at that time. The Latter-day Saints there are strong, and there are many stakes in that area of central Nigeria.”
Despite these standout locations, Hall said it’s difficult to choose any to stand above the rest.
“They’re all magnificent and wonderful, and they’re so varied in their locations and the peoples and cultures that are involved,” he said.
Along with the Provo City Center Temple, Hall is enjoying the abundance of interesting temple projects in the works right now, including temples in Rome, Italy and Paris, France.
“We’re designing and building temples in some pretty special places in the world right now,” he said. “The Paris France Temple will soon be under construction, and it’s located within a block of the Chateau of Versailles, which is one of the most prominent and most visited places in all of France.”
While he lends his architectural input on sites being considered for temples, Hall said it’s important to note that locations for temples are specifically decided by the first presidency of the LDS church, although his department does do research and makes suggestions for their consideration.
“It’s a great opportunity to assist them in the staff work that helps them to make the ultimately-inspired decisions that take place,” he said.
Hall makes it a goal to see every temple site before he begins design, so he can design it in an informed way, and so he can see the culture of the people he will be designing the building for.
“We attempt to include in the design of each temple characteristics of local architectural style and design, both on the exterior and the interior,” he said. “It’s helpful to gain knowledge of the historic architectural style and precedent that exists in each area where a new temple will be built.”
On top of these visits, he also likes to see temples that are nearing completion so he can personally validate the designs being constructed as intended, and also to gain feedback for future projects, which he hopes can get incrementally better.
Hall is the father of five and grandfather of four, with a fifth grandchild on the way. He married his wife Colleen in 1985 in the Washington, D.C. Temple. He now serves as the stake president of the Tooele Valley View Stake.
In general, Hall feels lucky to have an occupation he has dreamed of since the age of 14, but believes that his hand in temple construction isn’t the most important part of the work.
“President Gordon B. Hinckley probably taught us best that it’s not about the building or the architecture, it’s about what occurs inside the temple,” he said. “The work that we do is simply about providing the environment that contributes to the spirit of what occurs in the temple. To be able to participate in that is truly a dream opportunity for me and has required myself and those with whom I am privileged to work with to try to put out our best every day to the different assignments we have. I can’t think of a better thing to do with my career.”
Hall also believes the temples that are constructed are appreciated by many people that are not of the LDS faith.
“In the conversations that our public affairs people have had with neighbors of LDS temples that many appreciate the beauty that the temple brings to their community,” Hall said. “For them it’s an addition to their community. It’s a building that brings a great deal of permanence and respect.”