In Image of the City by Kevin Lynch, 5 elements were developed that explain how people create mental maps of the cities they experience. These include paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. To help contextualize this concept I am going to look at which of these elements can be found in Salt Lake City.
Because the predominant mode of travel in this region is by personal vehicle, roads become a primary means by which people experience the city. Interstates 15 and 80 are the primary means by which the city is entered and left, creating strong north/south and east/west organization markers respectively. The primary surface streets predominantly run in straight lines and connect to the interstates at most points.
Public transit routes, specifically the Trax lines, are becoming an important path element of the city for frequent users of the service. Bike paths and pedestrian zones are an unfortunately under-developed part of the city.
The main edge in the city are the mountains to the north and east which hem in the city.
Interstate 15 acts as a barrier between the east and west parts of the city and the east portion of Interstate 80 acts as southern boundary.
The city is composed of several identifiable districts which can help someone understand the city. These include, but are not limited to, downtown, the avenues, capitol hill, the University of Utah, Sugarhouse, 9th, central city, granary, and Rose Park.
There are a few nodes that are prominent in the city, but this is area where improvement could be made. Temple Square, the Main Street business district, 9th and 9th, and the Sugarhouse business district come to mind.
While buildings like the Salt Lake Temple and Rice-Eccles Stadium act as important landmarks, I would say that street signs act as the most important landmarks in the city. This is due to the large proportion of vehicle usage and the tidy grid layout of the city.
Different people are going to understand cities in different ways and is important that all of these components be developed and emphasized as cities grow and develop. Hopefully some of Salt Lake City’s weaknesses will be improved in time as it become more of a regional center and a city that people will like to come to.