The Sacred – A Design Charrette

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The Sacred – Design Studio Charrette

University of Utah, College of Architecture + Planning, Salt Lake City, UT
Fall 2015


Places that are held sacred by different cultures are expressions of fundamental and vital connections to something beyond – to nature, to the cosmos, to the divine. The experience of the sacred in these places may be defined by four walls and a soaring roof, by 48 wood poles delineating a circle, or by a single simple rope of twisted straw denoting the boundary between sacred and profane. The experience may focus on a ritual object, a conch shell whose sound awakens dormant emotions or a crystal that catches and focuses the light. In our information-driven present day, how do we locate and experience the sacred? How do we define and design for the sacred within the everyday urban experience of Salt Lake City?

Clear water rich in minerals flows freely at the Artesian Well Park on the southwest corner of 800 South and 500 East in Salt Lake City. Originally a depression in the ground where fresh water collected, the site now features an artesian well, with water rising from the natural pressure in the aquifer below. Low walls and a plaza of concrete and brick mark the well and provide places to gather and to sit – a quiet background for the humble act of filling jugs with water.

The Artesian Well Park is situated in an ecotone, a place where two or more ecologies are in tension and resolve. Here the different communities of plants and animals of the Great Basin shrub steppe and the Wasatch and Uinta montane forests – the desert sagebrush and the coniferous forests, the kangaroo mouse and the bighorn sheep – meet, blend, and support species that can adapt to the transitional environment. This area of transition and emergence marked by the Artesian Well Park is the site of our intervention – a place to celebrate and honor the liquid that gives life to us and to all living things. In the second driest state in the U.S., water can be held sacred. Utah writer Terry Tempest Williams observes, “Water is nothing if not ingemination [repetition,
reiteration], an encore to the tenacity of life.”


Each team was charged with creating a design intervention that shapes a sacred experience, honoring the life-giving qualities of the water at the Artesian Well Park. Each team could interpret “the sacred” and the experience of it as seen appropriate by exploring the relationship of water and spirituality in the broadest sense of a design intervention. Teams may choose to (hypothetically) remove the existing physical features and start with a clean slate, or work within the present infrastructure.

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Taught design studio charrette, created supplementary assignments, gave introductory lectures, served as team advisor to multi-disciplinary vertical studio of undergraduate and graduate architecture, planning, and interdisciplinary design students.



Team A
Lauren Adams, MDD
Ryan W. Smith, BS.Arch
Matt Drake, M.Arch
Gentry Griffin, M.Arch

Team B
Mitch Hope, BS.Arch
Kambaja Daange Tarr, BS.Arch
Andrew Hulka, M.Urban
Nathan Brown, M.Arch


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