When all the tumult of February 2002 dies down, Stephen Goldsmith hopes Utahns' heads will be filled with ideas.

To that end, the Salt Lake planning director is staging a show on the top floor of the City-County Building. With music composed especially for the occasion and hundreds of images from as many nations, Goldsmith's project means to explore what makes a city a great place to live.

The exhibition, titled "The Physical Fitness of Cities," will open to the public Feb. 4 and stay up through the end of March. So it will outlast the Winter Games — and illustrate how a city can dazzle in the same way the Olympic athletes did.

Instead of highlighting how athletes compete against one another, the exhibition surveys how humans live together and how they can build the cities of the future.

Watch a figure skater whirling across the ice, her body epitomizing strength, grace and joy. Then picture a healthy city that integrates beautiful towers, bridges and parks, giving its people elegant ways to play and work. Both bodies, the athlete and the city, run on integrated life force and reach their peaks by tapping everything they have.

Just as a skater can't excel on physical strength alone — she needs a fit mind as well — a city's soul isn't in its bricks and steel. A fit city seeks to connect its ethnic groups, neighborhoods and gathering spots, so that residents and ideas mix freely.

"The Physical Fitness of Cities" is designed to show how such integration is possible. Its images inspire in their sweep and simplicity: There's a young boy silhouetted above the aerial view of a metropolis; and an intimate photo of a family laughing together in a city park. The statue of Jesus Christ opens its arms to embrace Rio de Janeiro; students sit cross-legged and locked in conversation on a sunny lawn. Gleaming skyscrapers share an urban forest with hundred-year-old structures. Paris' Arc de Triomphe glitters alongside a country church crowned with a white cross.

"All fine architectural values are human values. Else they are not valuable," wrote Frank Lloyd Wright, giving voice to the idea that edifices aren't the essence of a healthy community. A vital city, he believed, grows up from the shoulders of its people.

Visitors to "The Physical Fitness of Cities" will be able to "see hundreds of streaming images from all over the world," Goldsmith said. Eighteen computer monitors will be set up on the fourth floor of the City-County Building to screen the 22-minute video tour of cities on all five continents. Information about the exhibition is also available at www.fitcities.org.

The show is "a constant stream of best possibilities" that have been realized in cities from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, said Goldsmith. Utahns "can come see this and say, 'I want what they're having.' "

He's careful to note that Salt Lake City should not try to replicate something that works somewhere else. "The Physical Fitness of Cities" is meant to be an inspiration, not a competition. In that way, it echoes our experience of the Olympic Games: Most of us can't qualify for the races, but we can certainly feel uplifted as we see how the athletes overcome adversity.

Goldsmith overcame his own spate of adversity, through nearly a year of fund-raising, to keep his vow that "The Physical Fitness of Cities" wouldn't require an influx of cash from Salt Lake City's general fund. The exhibition's cost of more than $350,000 was covered by cash and in-kind donations from a eclectic list of benefactors, including Herman Miller Inc., the George S. & Delores Doré Eccles Foundation, Compaq, Envision Utah, Kennecott Development Co., Utah Power and the Wallace Stegner Center at the University of Utah.

"I've been hanging out the window," as sponsors filed in one by one, Goldsmith said. He's inside the exhibition hall now. But his eyes are still on the horizon, where the Salt Lake City of the future will take shape.


E-MAIL: durbani@desnews.com