Not all of my travel involves photography so I do try and schedule some time on each trip to see the area and learn about it’s photographic potential. When in cities I enjoy looking at the architecture to see how it fits the city’s reputation or if there is a consistent motif representative of the city’s culture. Even where there is a mix of old and new buildings if you look closely you can sometimes see how the designers and builders carry forward some iconic aspect of the city.
Salt Lake City is a young urban place, at least by comparison with cities east of the Mississippi. It is a place that was intended to exist, planned for and designed to be a religious center and home to a wandering people. Isolated as it was (and still is to some extent) from the influences of other American cities, it developed it’s own flavor and character. Wandering around the city there remain signs of this if you take the time to look.
Looking south from Ensign Peak
The historical center of the city is Temple Square where the community gathered to practice their religion and from where the commercial aspects of the town grew outward from as the population expanded. Today it is an oasis in the middle of an urban scene, full of cool grass, colorful flowers and many visitors, all surrounding the iconic buildings on its grounds.
The people who built this city from a settlement were industrious and hard working. They adopted as their symbol the beehive in acknowledgement of how bees work together to build a community. The beehive motif is found in many places around the city, including the crown of an office building on the Square.
Other symbols of industrial effort grace various buildings as well, decorations aimed at making a solid statement about the values of the people who grew the city from a desert outpost to a thriving metropolitan community.
But not all decorations were as severe and practical – these are people who appreciate the artistic aspects of their lives as well and proudly display those motifs.
There are even signs of whimsy, scenes contrasting the modern with the playful.
As well as the linear perspective of more modern perspectives.
The most dominant theme, however, is found in the iconic Temple. Its influence is noticeable throughout the city in both large buildings and intimate details. It is the theme that runs through the city’s architecture, the one all designers and builders seem to realize has influence on their work.
It’s a fun place to spend some time just walking around and admiring the results of so many people’s efforts. In America we express our architecture like our personalities – individual, non-conforming, free to explore different aspects – and our cities manifest that expression. Take some time to look around your home town and see what themes run through it.