SAHARA Highlights: Tourism

by Jacqueline Spafford and Jeffrey Klee, SAHARA Co-Editors | Apr 02, 2019

This month’s images from SAHARA focus on sites of secular pilgrimage throughout the world. These may be amusement parks or zoos or heritage sites but they all make a determined effort to attract and accommodate visitors at a large scale. Contributors’ photographs emphasize varied aspects of such sites but commonly depicted features include signage, spaces for retail, and sleeping accommodations. A few images emphasize the seeming incongruity of facilities for tourist amusement with the solemnity of a site’s original purpose—Dell Upton’s view of the toboggan run at one section of the Great Wall of China is a fine example. Others illustrate the centrality of commerce to tourist operations or the interventions required to permit large numbers of people in places never intended for substantial visitation. Several images convey a strong sense of the irony, and sometimes self-parody, that characterizes many such places.

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1 Belize
Structure A-1, Altun Ha, Belize, Classic Maya period. View from the summit of Str. A-6 to its north shows the centralized features of its front facade as well as tourist access on its northern side (right). The upper portions of the building likely served as a display area and were associated with its primary funerary function, also known as the Temple of the Green Tomb. Photograph by Leah McCurdy, 2013.

2 Serpent Mound
Great Serpent Mound, Adams County, Ohio, c. 1070 CE; viewing platform erected c. 1900. Photograph by Jeffrey E. Klee, 2008.

3 Great Wall
Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section, originally mid-6th century, rebuilt 1404. Toboggan run early 21st century. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2016.

4 Shuhe
Shuhe, Yunnan, China, originally late 18th-century; rebuilt after 1996 earthquake. Shuhe is part of the Lijiang historic town, a World Heritage Site. It is located along the Tea Horse Road, the earliest settlement of Naxi people in this area. Photograph by wei zhao, 2012.

5 Nixon
Richard Nixon Birthplace, Yorba Linda, California, 1912. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2017.

6 Lighthouse
Ray Duntz, Lighthouse Cabins, Otter Lake, New York, early 1920s. This small compound was developed in 1922 and subsequently had a lakeside cabin built on the site. Additional cabins soon followed, and the main building is capped by a homespun rendition of a lighthouse tower. Photograph by Richard Longstreth.

7 Disney
Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida, 1971 and later. Photograph by Richard Longstreth, 1997.

8 Syria
New Tourist Hotel, Tadmor, Syria, c. 1980. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2010.

9 Zion
Fort Zion, Virgin, Utah, late 20th century. The site includes a gift shop, restaurant, and a petting zoo, all encased in a faux fort and surrounded by a psychedelic western town. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2016.




Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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