Monday, December 30, 2013


On our recent trip to Utah, I twice visited the main branch of Salt Lake City's library and took photos.  The library was built in 2003 and so is 10 years old.  It is architecturally complex.  That is to say it is made up of a number of different components that do not necessarily feel compatible.  And, at least on my initial visit, I was underwhelmed.  Having said that, I was more impressed on the second visit.  And I think the difference had as much to do with the improvement in light on the second visit as on my gaining a better understanding of the overall architectural design.

The most striking component of the building is a series of connected archways that serve as the backbone of the overall structure and that extend in a curving fashion into the grounds to the south, much as would an animal's spinal column that extends into a tail.  Hard to explain in words, but here is a photo that may illustrate this feature.

This shot was taken from the interior of an expansive foyer area looking out at the "tail."  Here is another shot that features both the foyer and a bit of the exterior tail.

One, hopefully, can see that the archway spine continues as one of the walls of the foyer.  Here's another shot from the front entrance area, looking in the other direction.  Both the spiral staircases and elevators are "exposed."

The pedestrians in these shots really help to provide perspective, I think.

Following are a couple of shots of the "tail" taken from the exterior.  The snow-covered mountains of the Wasatch range were gorgeous during our visit.

The glass feature on the left in this last shot that is reflecting the archway tail is one side of an unusual lens-shaped structure that consists of curved glass walls on both sides of the "lens."  The only utilitarian aspect of this "lens" is that the children's library is located on its lower floor.  The portion of the lens above the floor rises perhaps 50 feet and is entirely open to the glass roof except for white hammock-like canvas strung above the floor, presumably for sound control.  One can step out on a stairway above the hammocks.  Pretty eerie.  Here is a black & white shot I took on my first visit, which was on a very overcast day.

I liked the reflections of the hammocks (which might each have been about 4x6 feet in size) in the curving glass wall (actually the other side of the lens from the glass wall shown in the prior photo).  Interestingly, I took a very similar shot on my second day, one of bright sunshine.  I thought it might produce a more contrasty image, but in fact the bright sunlight actually created a confused shot.

OK, back to the "spine."  Here are a few more shots that I thought worked out.

I liked the standing figure in this second shot.

Another unusual feature of the library was a small, circular theater attached in the north side that had a ceiling that looked like it was about to collapse, presumably for acoustical purposes.  Here is one of the shots I got of the theater.

In the courtyard on the south side of the building is a small sculpture garden that features African art. The weather conditions were not the best (six inches of snow on the ground), and we didn't have a lot of time, but here are a few examples of the art.

Finally, I have included a shot of the front entrance of the library from the foyer interior.  The lettering was intended to be read from the exterior rather than interior, so it was backward in the original shot.  I just flipped it to a mirror image with my Lightroom software.

Of course, the tail is curving in the wrong direction, but who would know.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Mr. Phillips,

    I am the Development Direct at KCPW public radio. Our studios and offices are in the "tail" at the library. I stumbled across your photos and find your work to be lovely. (I agree with your theory that the beauty of this block hinges on the light. You should see during an August sunset!).

    I would like to inquire about digital rights to a few of your photos. There's nothing scandalous planned; perhaps one of your pictures as a Facebook cover photo and the like.

    We are a small, independent station and believe in community involvement. If you'd like to learn a little more about us or listen online, check out

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Shelley Carpenter