Utah Style and Design

Photo Friday: Great Time for Modernism

April 7, 2017

words and photos by: Scot Zimmerman

I usually feature and discuss residential architecture and design, but this week I am showcasing office and commercial buildings and the return of modernism. Just as in the mid-century, modernism appeared not only in the design of homes, but also in the commercial and institutional buildings of the time.

The Department of Child and Family Services Building in Sandy makes a pleasing impression with its balanced forms and reflective windows. The restrictive regulations for its use was one set of challenges, and the irregular shaped lot presented another, but none of these challenges can be sensed in the ease of the modern design. (Architecture by FFKR Architects, Greta Anderson, Salt Lake City)

Since the 1950s, many more materials are available to implement these designs. Advances have made flat roofs much more reliable, and coated and specialty glass reduce heat gain and loss so that even with today’s more stringent requirements for energy performance, there is more glass.

The modern shapes work well with the natural material palette of wood and stone of the CWC Inter Tribal Education and Community Center in Riverton, Wyoming. (Architecture by CRSA Architecture, Kathy Wheadon, Salt Lake City)

The forms also invite creativity with shapes, textures, and materials that make not only the exteriors exciting, but the spaces inside, as well. As a photographer, my job is to completely absorb what I see and to show it in the photographs. I have truly been struck with the range of design I have been photographing.

The US District Courthouse in Salt Lake City draws architecture buffs from around the country. (Architecture by Thomas Phifer & Partners, New York, with Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects, Salt Lake City)

There are some contradictions when photographing architecture. It is important to see and appreciate the scale and massing of the components of the building, and for that there needs to be an overall that doesn’t crop off the key elements. The overall photos, though, can’t easily capture the materials and the tension from the juxtaposition of shapes and materials, so there needs to be medium shots. And thirdly, details capture solutions and finishes that are amazing and beautiful. Sometimes when I’m photographing, I just turn my head and see something that is almost unbelievable. In summary, not one shot gets it all and to appreciate a building one should see more, but here’s a sampling.

When friends come to town and ask for suggestions to see new Utah architecture, one of my recommendations is the OC Tanner manufacturing facility in Salt Lake. (Architecture by FFKR Architects, Cecilia Uribru, Salt Lake City)

Opening image: Modern office buildings like eBay at the Point of Mountain maximize new products like coated glass and architectural metals, and the signage and lighting become an important aspect of the design. (Architecture by the Smith Group JJR, San Francisco.)

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