History of the Profession

About the Utah Architects Project

The Project began as an idea to recognize the people behind some of Utah’s most important architecture.  In western culture, architecture wasn’t recognized as a separate profession until the 1800’s when schools like France’s Académie des Beaux Arts began courses in Neo-classical building design.  Before then, buildings were often created either by the craftsmen who built them or by the skilled and artistic amateurs under political, religious and/or wealthy patronage (think: Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti, Christopher Wren, among others).  America’s best example of this is Thomas Jefferson, who was–among other more modest pursuits—an accomplished occasional architect—both self-teacher and self-client in the creation of some of our nation’s best places.  The first professional association of architects was formed in 1857 by the American Institute of Architects, soon followed by the creation of the first school of architecture in the United States (and the first program within a university anywhere) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1865.

Buildings of Utah’s pioneer-era (1847-1869) were usually designed and constructed by both American and European building artisans, who were both converts to the Mormon Church and recent immigrants to the territory now known as Utah.  As with the evolution of the architectural profession elsewhere in the United States, architecture in Utah in 1847 began as works of skilled craftsmen that slowly morphed into creations by professionals educated and practiced in the art and technology of architectural design.  Utah’s architectural community formed its own chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1891, helped to enact Utah’s first registration laws for the profession of “architect” in 1911, and promoted the creation of Utah’s first and only school of architecture at the University of Utah in 1949.

The scope of the Utah Architects Project draws focus on those architects whose prominent public buildings addressed the broad issues of health, safety, welfare and artistic expression present in their time.  The initial time frame of the Utah Architects Project (1847-1949) lies between two of the most seminal dates for the practice of architecture in Utah:  the beginning of the pioneer-era of architecture in 1847 and the formation of the Department in of Architecture at the University of Utah in 1949.  As the Project moves forward, we (UCFA)–as its underwriters and documentarians—hope to expand its scope to include architects and other environmental design partners who have helped to shape the place we now call “home” and to provide the users of the Project with valuable insights into the circumstances and ideas that informed the best of our past and present built environment.

Robert Herman, AIA