Built in 1912, the Utah State Capitol had, like so many monumental and historic public buildings, deteriorated over decades of heavy use and deferred maintenance—not to mention its location directly over a geologic fault. In 1998, the Utah State Capitol Preservation Board began an in-depth master planning process for the building’s restoration, and in 2002 they selected the Capitol Restoration Group (Schooley Caldwell Associates in association with VCBO Architects and MJSA Architects, both local firms) to design a restoration and seismic upgrade. The fundamental objectives for the project were to stay true to the architect’s original intentions while improving the building’s functional usefulness.
The Capitol featured terra cotta ornamentation that had originally been installed using early 20th century methods and materials that were allowing water to enter the façade and causing the terra cotta to crack. In addition, many architectural elements had been constructed of plaster because of budgetary concerns; however, the original architect’s vision called for terra cotta. Thus, 204 terra-cotta-clad replacement panels ranging in weight from 800-8,400 pounds were installed as part of the restoration project, using radial truss panels to incorporate both the restored and new terra cotta while maintaining the original rotunda dimensions. This radial truss panel construction also allowed the team to reinforce the entire dome structure with concrete to protect against earthquakes.
Seismic upgrades were critical to the Capitol’s continued use and the safety of its tenants. The entire building was raised and put “on blocks” to allow installation of base isolators beneath every foundation column as well as the four rotunda piers. The entire Capitol building is now capable of rocking back and forth as a whole up to 24 inches in any direction during a seismic event. In addition to the dome reinforcement and base isolators, the Capitol’s walls were reinforced with new shear walls of reinforced concrete upon which the granite walls were reattached.
Key historic spaces such as the Governor’s chambers and Legislative halls were restored to bring back the original character of the building. In addition, renovation work created secure public and private access points, discreet and efficient service areas, a visitor center, functional committee rooms and efficient office space.