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The Salt Lake Tabernacle may not be adorned with frescoes by Michelangelo, but its historic vaulted ceilings and majestic arcs - renovated to meet modern seismic and technological needs - not only made it a favorite among professionals, but also Tribune readers in an online survey held as part of the annual American Institute of Architects Utah competition.

The Tabernacle renovation, by FFKR Architects, earned 478 votes (out of more than 4,000 cast) to win the second annual "People's Choice" survey.

The famous Latter-day Saint house of worship and acoustic wonder, which reopened last spring after a two-year renovation, also earned one of three top awards from the juried portion of the contest.

"The Salt Lake Tabernacle is an enormously powerful building," wrote the three-member panel of judges, architects based outside of Utah. "The preservation work was done with such a skilled hand it seems invisible and seamless . . . This kind of modernization and preservation often goes unheralded but deserves high praise."

The other two top honors, out of 28 entries from Utah-based architects, went to the L. S. Peery Environmental Education Building in Ogden, designed by EDA Architects, Inc.; and Arcadia Historical Museum in Arcadia, Calif., designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

Two projects earned merit awards from the judges: Centennial Student Union, Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., designed by MHTN Architects Inc.; and the Utah Valley State College-Wasatch Campus First Building in Heber, designed by GSBS Architects.

The awards were presented Friday at a banquet in Salt Lake City.

"We hold design competitions to uncover the good design that goes on quietly that the public would not know about otherwise," said Elizabeth Mitchell, executive director of the AIA Utah chapter.

Runners-up in The Tribune's survey for "People's Choice" were the College of Eastern Utah, San Juan Campus in Blanding (361 votes); Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument Science & Visitor's Center in Escalante (310); and interiors of the Discovery Gateway children's museum in Salt Lake City (309).

"It seems the public picked out buildings that were distinctive, or that were enjoyed and cherished in some way," said Mitchell. "For example, the Discovery Gateway is very appealing for adults and children. And like the Tabernacle, they're places that make us feel good, and I think we all respond to buildings that way."

The Arcadia Historical Museum, in Arcadia, Calif., won one of three top honors in the Utah Architecture Design Awards. The firm, Sparano + Mooney Architecture, is based in Salt Lake City.

The L.S. Peery Environmental Education Building, in Odgen, took another AIA Utah top honor. It was designed by Salt Lake City-based EDA Architects.