For a brief moment, Bill Zahner thought he might have walked into the wrong meeting, perhaps with some naturalists.
Zahner was in St. Louis in 1988, meeting with Gyo Obata of the renowned architecture firm HOK. On the table sat some nautilus sea shells, with their distinct swirling effect. Obata pointed to one.
“He said, 'This is the roof I want you to make,'” said Zahner, president and CEO of the Kansas City metal fabricating firm A. Zahner Co. “I'm like, 'Fantastic – this is going to be fun!’”
Zahner had been asked to build the roof for the planned Community of Christ Temple in Independence, across the corner from the church's domed Auditorium.
Construction started in April 1990 and was completed four years later – dedicated on April 17. The building itself cost $35 million, though the entire project include site, services and the 5,600-rank pipe organ, totaled $75 million, the Community of Christ said.
The church will celebrate the building's 25th anniversary during this year's World Conference, with a community block party 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, including giant bubbles and face-painting for children, tours of the Temple interior, an organ demonstration and marionette show and music by international members of the church. There will be a flag ceremony at 2:15 p.m., and then the ceremony to present the International Peace Awards at 7 p.m.
In a Community of Christ release, former President Wallace Smith said the Temple's complex construction reflects the church's stand for peace.
“The effort that went into the building of that edifice also is indicative of how difficult it is to bring about peace in a world of conflict,” he said. “We continue to affirm that reality every when we come for the Prayer for Peace.”
Church records indicate the nautilus shape had been part of the Temple concept in the 1920s and ‘30s (when Auditorium constructed started). Presiding evangelist Jane Gardner said the spire represents the inward and outward spiritual journey of discipleship.
The building design also represented something new for Zahner's company – in more than one way.
“It's sort of a double helix,” he said in an interview with Community of Christ. “At the time it was constructed, there was never really anything attempted like that.
“Every one of the panels is different, and every one of them is tapered.”
The Temple's complexity helped push Zahner into using computerized methods that were just starting to take hold in the industry.
“It was a lot of fun and challenging,” he said. “It moved us into this digital world that we're known for today.
“It definitely gave us the energy to tackle more things like that. We were intrigued how the computer could be used to lay out things and translate.”
JE Dunn Construction built the structure, which also includes the Community of Christ's world headquarters. In the sanctuary, which seats 1,600 people, the ceiling rises 195 feet above the floor. Outside, from the top of the spire to the building floor is 300 feet. At the time it was constructed, the Temple had the third-largest stainless steel roof in the country (80,000 square feet) and marked the first structure to represent the mathematical Fibonacci sequence – the infinite integer in which the first two terms are 1 and each succeeding term is the sum of the previous two.
Zahner said he's showed the Temple to guest many times over the years.
“People always amazed how beautiful it is,” he said, “and how well it came together.”