Park City Home by Sparano + Mooney Architecture Featured on Cover of Utah Style & Design / Summer Issue

 Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Have you picked up the latest issue of Utah Style & Design? If so, you may be joining us in our delight at seeing another one of our Park City houses land the cover! Sparano + Mooney is thrilled to once again be a part of this remarkable design and lifestyle magazine. The article entitled, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, written by Natalie Taylor and photographed by Scot Zimmerman, showcases this home design nestled at the base of Park City, “where breathtaking nature, expressive materials and eclectic elements drive the compelling design.” Characteristic to Utah Style & Design, the pages are filled with full-page colorful photos, including those of this Thaynes Canyon home’s architecture and interiors, which showcases the owner’s personal artwork and style.

 Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Owners Gwen and Patrick Reddish faced a difficult challenged when their previous 105-year old farmhouse situated on the land needed to be demolished. They wanted to keep their assortment of large trees when building a new home, and also wanted to incorporate elements of Scandinavian and European farmhouse style but in an updated, modern way. Sparano + Mooney Architecture was able to provide the architectural solution. By creating a long, narrow structure that “weaves in and out of the trees”, all trees remained untouched and a home emerged that “fit perfectly in the vernacular of the old farmstead site.” Elements from the owner’s original farmhouse were reused in order to maintain the feel of an old home - and preserve what was so loved!

 Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Being filled with and built of stone, and distressed wood and materials, the architecture easily blends in with the surrounding nature, and a home in Park City wouldn’t be complete without incorporating the surrounding views. This house was designed to “seamlessly reach into the environment at every turn” as large windows and double-height ceilings throughout the home continually draw the eye to the outside.

 Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

This new home made from repurposed materials - and filled with rich colorful art and textiles - make this a fabulous hidden architectural gem in the Park City countryside. Thank you Utah Style & Design for featuring this eclectically styled and colorful home with your readers. We were honored to be a part of the process as the architects!

 Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Photograph by Scot Zimmerman

Construction Update: New Mountain Architecture

Photography by Nate King


With an anticipated occupancy in the early fall; all exterior materials are nearing completion and the focus is shifting to interior finishes.


We are very pleased with how the exterior wood cladding is coming together on site and the relationship it has to the textural boards from concrete.


The interior cabinetry is currently in production and we look forward to seeing the relationship the refined white oak interiors will have in contrast to the rough sawn cedar clad exterior.


Next steps include the final finish layer of landscaping to bring the site back to its natural state and reinforce the home's relationship to this beautiful setting. 


An Artist Among Us: The Art + Paintings of Camille Erickson

Without doubt, the Sparano + Mooney Architecture team are talented, driven, and creative. We work hard to deliver thoughtful design solutions to our clients, not to mention our commitment to an exceptional client experience and harnessing first-rate business acumen. Of course, our Salt Lake City and Los Angeles architects are highly skilled at turning numerous iterations of ideas and sketches into renders and plans. Putting pen, pencil and brush to paper is a key aspect of our practice and drawing skills are essential to the profession. But did you know that our team member Camille Erickson, head of Accounting and Human Resources, also produces beautiful paintings and is an enormously talented artist in her own right? We are astounded by Camille’s talent, and her ability to use both her left and right brain with equal flourish. We interviewed her to discover more about her work.

Camille Beach.jpg

"Camille Painting in Tulum, Mexico", Photographed by Michelle Buhler


When did you first begin to draw/sketch and paint?

My mom is an artist and teacher and she had me drawing and painting as soon as I could hold a brush or pen in my hand. My first drawing that she kept is from under the age of 1. Although, I became very interested in art when I was in high school. I took classes in jewelry, drawing and painting and that is where I realized this was something I had a passion for. I then studied painting and drawing for my undergraduate degree, followed a number of years later by a master’s degree in accounting.

How did you learn to draw/sketch/paint?

I learned to draw and paint by watching my mom, taking classes, watching the great Bob Ross, and watching other family members of mine who are jewelers, cartoonists, and painters.

Did anyone in particular teach or inspire you to design your creations?

Besides the constant exposure to my mom, family members and the art galleries my mom took me to as a child, some great 20th century painters, Wayne Thiebaud, Chuck Close, and Edward Hopper, inspire me. I especially like Chuck Close’s prints and that got me interested in Japanese wood block printing (ukiyo-e) and etching. I learned this printing technique from a master Japanese printer at the Center for Book Arts in New York.

Do you still love painting as much as when you first began?

I do love painting even more than I did when I first began. I was just learning the mechanics of painting, how to mix color, how to prepare a canvas, and how to draw with paint. Now, when I see other people’s work I have more of an appreciation and love for what other artists create. I was at the Getty Museum with our office a few weeks ago and I saw these amazing paintings by Peter Rubens. I was particularly inspired by the under-painting/wash and detail in which he had painted the figures in a deep brown paint – they reminded me of a drawing. I see the world differently through the eyes of an artist and I love that art can evoke emotions.


Salt Box.jpg

Camille Erickson, "Salt Box"


Why do you paint? What inspires you?

I am inspired to paint; make jewelry, ceramics, prints; or draw a simple sketch because I see something that I want to make or remember. I would say one of my biggest inspirations is light and how light interacts with the space around us. In school, I was trained in classical figure painting, drawing, and sculpting, although lately I am not focused on the figure as much.

How does painting influence your professional work?

Working in an architecture firm like Sparano + Mooney Architecture is truly the best of both worlds. Kind, interesting, artistic and creative people surround me all day, while I am doing accounting, and this reminds me of the importance of staying creative. It is inspirational to be surrounded by the building models and the creative process that these “ideas” originate from and that is truly amazing.

Have you ever exhibited your artwork?

Yes, I have exhibited my work over the years. In high school I was in a student show at the University of Utah’s Museum of Fine Art. I have also shown my work in Helper, Utah; The Arts Student’s League, New York; and the Utah Women’s Artist Exhibition, Utah.  

What is your favorite subject matter?

That’s pretty tough to narrow it down to a single subject matter. By medium I could select it: for painting and drawing it is the human figure, with metalsmithing and sculpture I am drawn to functional objects, and with printmaking it is still life objects.

What is your favorite medium?  

I paint in oil; however, these days my favorite medium is clay. I just started working with clay this past summer.

ukiyo-e woodblock print.png

Camille Erickson, "ukiyo-e woodblock print"


Do you like talking about your artwork and talent or do you prefer to keep it private?

For many years, I didn’t like talking about it, and I think that has changed, as it has become a more direct part of my life. I am producing work every week and that makes me more interested in discussing it. For me, sharing it is the best way to get objective feedback and helps me to continue working.

When is your favorite time to draw/sketch/paint, and do you have a favorite place to draw?

My favorite place to work is any place that I can remove all other distractions and really focus. Sometimes, that is at home, other times my studio, or just sitting somewhere. I draw at home every night. Since my son entered the 1st grade he picks an image for me to draw on his lunch bag. We started this tradition almost three years ago. This has been one of the best ways for me to stay active with drawing. My high school art teacher Marjorie McClure required us to draw daily in a sketchbook. I remember, with such dread, having to produce those sketches and trying to find a subject matter to draw. I still have all of those sketchbooks and it is great to have them to look back to.

Master Chief Lunch Bag.png

Camille Erickson, "Master Chief Lunch Bag"


How do you title your work?

I generally don’t title my work. Mostly because it is not something I feel I am particularly good at. I tend to use titles, like “figure drawing 1” or “painting of a pear.” I know that isn’t very creative and my husband, who is a writer, is always encouraging me to explore the titles a bit more. I agree with him that a good title can actually make a piece of art better.

Would you like to add any closing thoughts?

Thank you Mom for dragging me to the museums and libraries as a kid and exposing me to art. I’ll never forget going to my first nude figure drawing class with my mom when I was barely 16 years old. Or how she would have us look across a rainy day landscape and pick out the colors and brush strokes like it was a painting!

We are so grateful to count Camille as a member of the SMA team and can't wait to see what she creates next...

12th Annual Mountain West Arts Conference

The 12th Annual Mountain West Arts Conference is happening this week at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City, Utah. It will be a day filled with performances, design exhibits, workshops, speakers and networking. Kevin Kling will be the keynote speaker addressing his audience on The Healing Power of Story. 

We're proud sponsors of this event and are so happy to see members of Utah and the Mountain West's creative community coming together to form connections and help sustain the arts!


Art, Architecture, History + Identity: The Chicago Architecture Biennial

Chicago may be known as the Windy City, but for architecture aficionados, the metropolis is a veritable treasure trove of world-renowned architectural gems. From historic structures including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House (1910), Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center complex (1974), and Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City (1964), to more recent structures such as Studio Gang’s Aqua (2009), Chicago boasts numerous architectural landmarks. Though our firm of Salt Lake City and Los Angeles architects are based in the American West, we nevertheless have closely followed the most recent incarnation of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, a showcase of over 140 architects and artists, exhibitions and events across the city, free and open to the public. Hurry! The events come to a close in early January, so if you find yourself in need of inspiration to start the new year, make haste to this cultural hub and take advantage of the truly breathtaking array of architectural wonders on offer.


Chicago Architecture Biennial Projects by (L to R) Atelier Bow Wow, “Piranesi Circus”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial, Photo: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing; So-IL, “Passage”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial, Photo: Tom Harris/Hedrich Blessing

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America, and makes use of the city’s breathtaking backdrop as the gallery for internationally-acclaimed presentations “showcasing the transformative global impact of creativity and innovation in these fields”. Make New History is the theme of this year’s CAB: practitioners representing over 20 countries were invited by the CAB’s artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee (of the firm JOHNSTONMARKLEE) to participate in this city-wide presentation of thought-provoking creations and explorations of urbanism, the evolution of community identity and the impact of looking to the past to inform the present.

This is a deeply evocative and moving exploration of architecture that travels well beyond traditional presentations of architectural discourse. We are particularly impressed with the CAB’s emphasis on narrative, cultural examination, and the advancement of architectural design within a framework of accumulated conventions. How do we, as modern practitioners, assert our own identity and create the “new” when we are undoubtedly indebted to precedent? Indeed, the CAB seeks to explore this dichotomy and to highlight the ways in which architects, artists and designers working today are shunning the need to create the unparalleled in favor of incorporating historical models into their work; in other words, “committed to progress, but always from within an architectural tradition,…producing innovative and subversive works grounded in the fundamentals of the discipline.”


Chicago Architecture Biennial Project by Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zürich + Self Assembly Lab, MIT, “Rock Print”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photo: Tom Harris/Hedrich Blessing

With this powerful statement in mind, the overriding purpose of the CAB and Make New History is to invite members of the public and well-versed practitioners alike to explore the ways contemporary architecture has the ability to assert an historical impact globally, irrespective of site and geographical boundaries. Topics include Image, Material, Building, and Civic Histories, and highlight a myriad of creative methods of architectural expression, from drawings, experiential environments, and performances to books, films, design objects and academic analyses of architectural thought. These topics unite the shared interests, concerns and practices of architects, artists and critics who are helping to shape the future – and, therefore, the history – of the industry and field. As Mark Lee explains, “buildings are not always the end result…We think that producing ideas through different mediums – perhaps before one achieves the chance to build buildings, or maybe in lieu of that work – is relevant to the changing state of the discipline today.”


Chicago Architecture Biennial Project by Amanda Williams, “Color(ed) Theory”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photo: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

The main exhibition takes place in the Chicago Cultural Center, which Johnston and Lee have transformed into complex, intertwined corridors, galleries, arcades and salons dedicated to juxtapositions of past, present and future incarnations of architectural design. For example, an exhibition of innovative experiments in contemporary architectural photography, curated by Jesús Vasallo, is on display, as well as a reconsideration of the landmark 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Numerous satellite events at off-site locations include educational programs with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and free tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed SC Johnson headquarters. The platform offers a unique assemblage of exhibits, large-scale installations, and creative programming with which visitors are encouraged to actively engage and consider through a global, critical lens.


Chicago Architecture Biennial Project by Aranda\Lasch, “Budidesa”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photo: Tom Harris/Hedrich Blessing

Presentations such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial are key to the advancement of our field. They help underscore disciplinary concerns, draw new audiences to architecture and aid in the development of new architectural identities and modes of expression. If you were able to take part in this year’s CAB, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the event, and hope to see you in the Windy City for the CAB’s next installment in 2019!


The Chicago Architecture Biennial

Season's Greetings from Sparano + Mooney Architecture!

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our amazing clients, colleagues, consultants and friends during this Festive Season. Happy Holidays and warmest wishes to all for a wonderful New Year!


Adrián Villar Rojas and Sparano + Mooney Architecture Create “Theater” at MOCA

Sparano + Mooney Architecture and our team of Los Angeles architects and designers have established a fantastic working relationship with The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, and we were delighted when the institution approached us to provide architectural services and interior remodeling for their latest exhibition of cutting-edge contemporary art, titled Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance. We have also collaborated with MOCA on acclaimed shows by Matthew Barney and of works from the 1990s at the museum, and were more than happy to partner on this occasion to bring Villar Rojas’ eclectic and boundary-defying art to The Geffen’s savvy audience.

For this show, Sparano + Mooney Architecture worked with Villar Rojas’ proposed layout for the exhibit, made modifications in order for it to comply with current codes, such as building and fire, and also collaborated with structural engineers to ensure columnar components of the space held up.


Installation view of “Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance”, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Courtesy of MOCA, the artist, kurimanzutto (Mexico City) and Marian Goodman Gallery New York/Paris/London; photo by Studio Michel Zabé.

Adrián Villar Rojas (b.1980) is a South American artist whose work embodies the abstract, abject and ephemeral. His object-based “environments” and gallery-specific interventions exist in a liminal space void of typical past/present/future dichotomies. Food waste, raw meat, concrete, geological formations and flora and fauna are juxtaposed in his work, and the viewer is asked to contemplate at what stage a “work of art” is created. Is it when the items are conceived? Installed? When they are revealed to the first visitors? Or when they break down, morph and decay? These so-called “post-human” artworks – some of which are inert sculptures, some organic totems and manufactured fossils, some inorganic relics – certainly defy canonical, art historical categorization. And, perhaps that is Villar Rojas’ motive: to treat the exhibition space as an evolving realm that promotes decomposition and obsolescence of these alien art forms, and to comment critically on the commercial nature of the institutional art world. Though the work may be at times obscure, there is nevertheless a romanticized notion to his approach. Villar Rojas creates art that is at once otherworldly and visceral and in doing so, we are confronted with contemplating uncomfortable truths about our own material existence in time and space.


Installation view of “Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance”, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Photo courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

Villar Rojas’ approach to curating his work is unique, but is strikingly similar to how we approach our own work as contemporary architects and designers. Villar Rojas produces art that is uncompromisingly site-specific; he often spends a great deal of time in the spaces he will exhibit his work in order to understand the limits and potential of these architectural interiors, and to garner as much understanding of the social, cultural, geographical, and institutional contexts as possible. In this way, Villar Rojas is able to consider the “poetics of space” and how a venue’s structural setting deeply affects a visitor’s perception of his work. At Sparano + Mooney Architecture, we explore hyper-specific cultural cues culled from each project’s client, program and/or site. This research is used to provide the architectural order and transcend convention. We too seek to construct a more meaningful relationship between modern architecture and the experience of its inhabitants. Therefore, the underlying organization of our work is a deliberate choice to position people at dynamic centers of architecture and to let space and form unfold around a continuous path of travel. Though our fields are quite different, we feel an affinity to the approach used by Villar Rojas and are pleased to have been a part of this exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. We look forward to the next opportunity to collaborate with this awesome Los Angeles museum and cultural institution!


Site-specific conceptual constructs by Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance is on view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA from October 22, 2017 – May 13, 2018.  


Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance, MOCA

The Amber Road Trekking Cabins: Architecture Competition Entry by Sparano + Mooney Architecture

At Sparano + Mooney Architecture, we are always in search of creative outlets for our ideas and for new ways to innovate and promote sustainability in architectural practice. Submitting conceptual projects to architectural competitions is just one way that we attempt to advance our critical thinking, and our team of architects and designers recently put forth a tiny house proposal to the Amber Road Trekking Cabins architecture competition, organized by Bee Breeders in association with the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency, which calls for the design of several travelers’ cabins to be situated along the extensive and stunning Amber Road trekking path. The path will run along the beaches of the Baltic Sea, a remote treasure of natural beauty in Northern Europe renowned for the fragments of glowing amber that wash up on the region’s shores. Winning designs will be considered for construction as a means of boosting tourism to Latvia.


Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s entry for the Amber Road Trekking Cabins architecture competition. Courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s entry was designed to accommodate four travelers and their basic micro-housing needs for 24 hours, to implement an amber-tinted polycarbonate façade for its aesthetic and technical characteristics, to harness the solar path and prevailing wind patterns for sustainability considerations, and to be constructed from prefabricated “flat pack” wooden structural components to minimize on-site construction and installation requirements. These variations make the cabins adaptable to most outdoor environments and weather conditions experienced along the trekking path throughout the year, meaning travelers to the area will be able to utilize the facilities on an extended basis and the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency can maximize its investment in this catalyst for economic and architectural development.


Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s entry for the Amber Road Trekking Cabins architecture competition. Courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

The Amber Road trekking path is planned to allow long-distance hikers the opportunity to traverse the country from the border with Lithuania to the border with Estonia. The total distance a trekker could hike would be 530 kilometers (approximately 330 miles), an arduous journey that would necessitate accommodations for the weary along the route. We took the opportunity to suggest structures that would both provide shelter and allow the occupants to indulge in the country’s scenic wonders. The competition brief stipulated that the architect’s designs be suitable for various terrain found along the route, and that they be constructed in a manner that would not disrupt the natural environment or interfere with the conservation and preservation of the landscape. Indeed, the competition organizers requested that the cabins pay homage to Latvia’s heritage and to have the potential to become cultural landmarks in their own right. Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s entry sees the translucent polycarbonate act as a colorful amber cladding covering the traditional Latvian timber structure. These tiny house cabins, scattered throughout the scenic landscape, will help travelers recollect and preserve their experiences here as amber-hued memories.


Sparano + Mooney Architecture’s entry for the Amber Road Trekking Cabins architecture competition. Courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

We are excited to have been able to submit our designs for this project, and should our proposal be successful, we would be honored to have our concept constructed in such a beautiful setting! Do you have an abstract idea you would like help exploring? From large projects to small, we are focused on delivering thoughtful, innovative, contemporary and sustainable design solutions in architecture to accommodate each client’s visionary, functional and budgetary requirements. We’d love to hear from you!

The Glorious Getty: Art + Architecture

Sparano + Mooney Architecture loves art and culture – and as contemporary architects in Los Angeles, we also adore examples of institutions in this great city that combine these passions and pursuits. Which is why we are crazy about the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center and the treasure trove it offers throughout its sprawling California campus. Housing an expansive collection of European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, photography, textiles and decorative arts created from antiquity to the present, the museum serves diverse local and international audiences and continually offers groundbreaking exhibitions and programming to the public. The Getty Center’s overriding mission is to “inspire curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts by collecting, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of outstanding quality and historical importance”. Now that’s a mission we can support!


David Hockney, “Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2”, 1986. Collage of chromogenic prints. Courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum, © David Hockney

The history of the Getty Center is storied and speaks to the legacy and prolific collecting tendencies of its founder, oil tycoon, industrialist and businessman J. Paul Getty (b.1892 – d.1976), who believed that art could be a “civilizing” influence on society. Throughout his life, Getty worked to make art available to the public and to promote the educational benefits of cultural artifacts. In 1948, he donated a significant portion of his collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; in 1953 he established the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the following year he opened the J. Paul Getty Museum in his Malibu ranch house (the site now serves a mission focused on antiquities). After his passing, the Trustees looked to build upon Getty’s unwavering dedication to the visual arts, expand the museum and its collections, and offer a broader range of programming, educational pursuits and scholarly research opportunities to the art world and members of the public alike. With this mission to hand, the Getty Villa was conceived and constructed and the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Research Institute and Getty Foundation were created and constitute “the Getty”. In 1983, the Trust purchased the 110-acre hilltop site in the Santa Monica Mountains that would come to house the current site of the Getty Center, designed by architect Richard Meier. Incorporating lush gardens and celebrating the site’s rugged topography, the Center opened to great art – and architecture – acclaim in 1997. Today, the Getty is the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic visual arts institution.  


The J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. Photography: The LA Times Magazine, December 7, 1997. Courtesy Lawrence Weschler

The Getty Center, while focused primarily on promoting and exhibiting the visual arts, is nevertheless an all-encompassing cultural institution, offering performances, film screenings, talks and lectures, tours and family events for all to experience its architecture and cultural offerings. Research and conservation play a crucial role in the Center’s operations, and educational programs for audiences of all ages engage audiences through the rich resources at the Center and Villa. For example, the education department offers a session titled “Drawing from Antiquity”, in which informal drawing lessons are taught on the grounds and students can sketch from works of art, architecture, sculpture and the gardens of the Villa. The course sounds to us like the perfect way to spend an afternoon honing our foundational skills!

The exhibition program is wide-ranging and never fails to innovate. Recent exhibitions have included “Giovanni Bellini: Landscapes of Faith in Renaissance Venice”, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney” and “The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930”. We are also excited about a forthcoming exhibition (opening June 26-October 21, 2018) titled “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography 1911-2011”, featuring works by industry stalwarts such as Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton while also recognizing the talent of artists less well-documented, including Neal Barr, Hiro and Ray Kellman.


Left: Neal Barr, “Dianne Newman”, 1966. Gelatin silver print. © Neal Barr. Right: Hiro,Black Evening Dress, New York”, negative 1963; print 1994. Dye imbibition print. © Hiro. Courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

Whenever we have a spare minute in Los Angeles – and especially when we are seeking architectural and creative inspiration – we head to the Getty Center. We are in awe of its collections and the dedication of its professional staff in continuing the passion for art, architecture and culture that J. Paul Getty originally established. It would be a dream to collaborate with this venerable institution. We hope to see you wandering among the collections and bougainvillea soon! 


1. "About the J. Paul Getty Museum"
2. "History of the Getty"
3. "Behind the Scenes at the Getty: the History of Fashion Photography Revisited" by Gisely Ruiz, the iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty, 16 October 2017

Now Open: The Newel + Jean Daines Concert Hall and Daryl Chase Fine Arts Center at Utah State University!

The Utah State University Caine College of the Arts and Daryl Chase Fine Arts Center celebrate a 50 year anniversary this October, and to mark the occasion, we are honored to announce that the Newel and Jean Daines Concert Hall will open its doors after undergoing an extensive renovation and addition! Sparano + Mooney Architecture was integral to the design of the new performing arts facility and we are beyond excited to see our team’s hard work and vision come to life.


The Newel and Jean Daines Concert Hall, Utah State University. Photography by Alan Blakely

We would like to extend our greatest appreciation to our team of consultants on the project – including Newson Brown AcousticsCache Landmark Engineering, Inc.Landmark Design, Inc.Calder Richards Consulting Engineers LLCVan Boerum & Frank AssociatesSpectrum Engineers and Gramoll Construction – and to Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, who played a tremendous part in realizing this wonderful facility. We are grateful for your support and are proud to have worked with such a dedicated group of professionals on the Daines Concert Hall and Fine Arts Complex renovation and addition!

The Utah State University Fine Arts Complex Addition/Renovation consisted of adding an additional 15,000 SF of space on two sides of the complex and renovating 107,000 SF of space in the existing building. The crown jewel of the project is the renovation of the Daines Concert Hall (formerly the Kent Concert Hall). Upgrades include a new acoustical shell, acoustically reconfigured walls, removal of the existing ceiling, and upgraded theatrical audio and lighting equipment to enhance the acoustic performance of the venue for both performers and audience; all new theater seating; HVAC systems improvements to decrease ambient noise levels; addition of a fire sprinkler system; structural modifications to the ceiling to improve seismic stability; new catwalks and tension grid; addition of dressing room suites; and improved ADA access to the concert hall from the lobby and from the hall to the stage. With seating for 1,743, the Daines Concert Hall is a performance facility with secondary use for convocation, lectures and general assemblies.


The Newel and Jean Daines Concert Hall, Utah State University. Photography by Alan Blakely

The renovation of the Daines Concert Hall also removed the old ceilings, proscenium arch, existing electrical, mechanical, audio visual systems and existing seating. It added a gallery to both sides of the house and behind the stage. The stage was extended forward by 15 FT. The acoustics for the concert hall were of utmost importance. The walls for the hall were carefully designed to optimally direct the sound into the space. The new acoustic design allows for the sound to envelop the listener no matter what seat they might be in. The new gallery levels curve behind the stage, and this aspect permits patrons of a choral and orchestra performance to be elevated above the stage, giving them a more intimate experience. In an orchestra-only performance this vantage allows the patron to sit in these elevated seats behind the stage, giving them a whole new perspective of the performance. The curving natural wood on the walls lends the hall a warm and inviting feeling. All new seating in the concert hall provides the patron a wonderfully comfortable experience.

The mechanical ductwork increased in size to slow down the air movement, making the building comfortable and quiet. The structure has been opened, especially above the stage, making it inviting and expansive. New cat-walk throughout the space allows those working behind the scenes easy access to almost every corner of the Daines Concert Hall.

In addition to the Daines Concert Hall, the Fine Arts Center also saw the expansion and renovation of the Morgan Theatre Scene Shop and Costume Shop, which provides an additional 7,900 SF of space to accommodate design and construction of theatrical scenery and costumes. These improvements provide significant economic benefits for the Morgan Theatre due to expanded scheduling of the facility for its use as a rehearsal, performance, and teaching venue for Utah State University and the various theatrical groups that use the Theater. As part of the Fine Arts Center’s renovation, the Tippetts Exhibition Hall and Gallery has also been transformed and now shines as an example of a world-class exhibition space.


The Morgan Theater Costume Shop, Utah State University. Photography by Alan Blakely

The Utah State University Fine Arts Complex Addition/Renovation results in an architectural landmark for both the Utah State University campus and Northern Utah, and our team is tremendously proud to have contributed to the institution’s cultural and educational landscape. We are grateful to have been a part of designing and realizing the Daines Concert Hall and the Fine Arts Center and look forward to another 50 years of arts and culture in the new facility!

Announcing Design Week 2017 and a Sparano + Mooney Architecture Exhibition!

Now in its seventh year, the 2017 edition of Design Week is opening from October 16th-21st and we can’t wait to take part in this city-wide cultural showcase! As Salt Lake City architects deeply committed to producing, experiencing and inspiring great design, we are excited to check out the creative smorgasbord that this artistic city has to offer during what is sure to be a stellar event. And, we hope to welcome you to our studio on Monday, October 16th from 5:00-6:30pm, for an exhibition of work by University of Utah School of Architecture students, taught by our own Anne Mooney!


Sparano + Mooney Architecture has participated almost every year with open studio tours, architect talks, exhibitions, installations and design award celebrations. This year is no exception, with Anne leading an exhibition of architecture and design work by her senior undergraduate students in the Sparano + Mooney Architecture gallery space. The students have explored a wide range of spiritual traditions and their expression of faith in space, light and form. Watercolor paintings of this research will be exhibited along with three-dimensional, mixed-media models of sacred space and architectural explorations of landscape, light and shadow.


Image of model courtesy of Utah architecture student, Betty Freer

The intent of Salt Lake Design Week is to bring creativity to the forefront and explore the city’s diverse and thriving design scene for a week-long event filled with collaboration and inspiration, and also seeks to raise awareness of the impact that all design – including architecture, product, interior, graphic, photography, digital, fashion, and advertising – has on our cities, its residents and visitors alike. Salt Lake Design Week assembles professionals, students, entrepreneurs, educators and community members to celebrate design in our vibrant metropolis. Significantly, since its inception seven years ago, Design Week has engaged over 50,000 people and continues to motivate critical thinking in its diverse participants.

In addition to our own presentation, this year a series workshops, lectures, business development sessions, film screenings, studio tours and exhibitions will encourage collaboration among Salt Lake’s numerous design cognoscenti, museums, architects, businesses and educational and cultural institutions. Through these platforms, Salt Lake Design Week will provide multiple forums for all to enjoy, glean inspiration, interact and grow creatively, and in doing so, initiate a stronger imaginative community. We love that!

A cross-section of events include: “Act Like You Know What You’re Doing”, a conversation with designer and photographer Josh Scheuerman about enacting change in our community and championing social advocacy (held at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE); “Salt Lake Furniture Design Show”, an evening presentation featuring ten pieces of exquisite furniture made by local professional builders and talented design students (held at Clubhouse SLC); and several studio tours which form an integral component of Salt Lake Design Week. Tour stops include Kilter Design, Contravent Creative, Underbelly Creative, Work Hive, and Dinng. These tours offer eye-opening insight into the creative processes honed by some of the city’s most notable design firms.


As part of Salt Lake Design Week, we invite you to visit the Design Arts ’17 Exhibition at the Rio Gallery, which features the award-winning LOOP Bench project designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture. The exhibition closing reception and celebration will take place Friday, October 20th from 6-9pm. If we don’t have the chance to meet during Salt Lake Design Week, we’d love the opportunity to discuss our design philosophy and to create a unique work of architecture for your next cultural, civic, institutional or residential project in the American West!

Salt Lake Design Week is hosted by the Salt Lake City chapter of AIGA, the Professional Association for Design. For more information, and to purchase tickets to selected events, please visit the Salt Lake Design Week website. Design matters!

Construction Updates from the Wabi-Sabi House

We are excited to report that construction is well underway on the Wabi-Sabi House in Emigration Canyon, Utah! Our Salt Lake City architects and designers have been hard at work in collaboration with our wonderful and inspirational clients, as well as our dedicated team of consultants – including Living Home Construction and Structural Design Studio – to make the dream of a tranquil, mountain modern home a reality.


Wabi-Sabi House Interior Rendering, courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Wabi-sabi is an ancient tenet of Japanese aesthetic culture. It is a philosophy of beauty that embraces the imperfect, the incomplete and the transient. Wabi-sabi architecture espouses simplicity and honesty in expression, those modest things in our world that express beauty as they weather and age. In conceiving this house and while walking the site, the work began to coalesce around an idea of textures, materials, and expressed joinery and connections.

This 4,000 square foot home, designed for a young family, celebrates a unique elevated Utah mountain site with a rare and direct connection to nature. The design was conceived as an expression of both static and dynamic elements, referencing the relationship of the mountain and the vegetation and wildlife on the site. The entry design is a perforated wall with segmented views of the site and surroundings. Upon passing into the architecture, the occupant is presented with a long corridor offering a path lit by a skylight running the full length of the volume and illuminating a textural wall, and is also presented with a framed view of the mountains to the west. As one progresses through the space, the shift in program is presented with the public volume in line directly with the canyon view. The architecture includes a basement level that incorporates a creative office space with a private outdoor patio. The living-room fireplace is mirrored by an outdoor fireplace and both create places for family and friends to gather.

Materials, including CorTen steel, were selected to reference the site and are crafted to express their constructed connections and detailing. This approach to materials extends to the selection of interior elements, fixtures and furnishings. The vegetated roof is planted with local grasses and serves to camouflage the home design into its context. The residence sits within its mountain site with minimal disturbance to the landscape, which is augmented with native and drought-tolerant plants and trees.


Wabi-Sabi House Construction Site Photo, courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture and Living Home Construction

With excavation, concrete and sub-rough plumbing complete, the project is moving into framing with a critical stage – steel – currently in progress.  We are very happy with how the texture and finish of the board-formed concrete has turned out, and look forward to seeing how this feature will relate to our exterior wood cladding finish in the coming months. The steel wall trusses require a few weeks of detailed site assembly and field welding.  The project is now officially “out of the ground”, and one can begin to get a sense of form, scale and views that will be captured by the architecture on this spectacular mountain site in Utah.


Wabi-Sabi House Construction Site Photo, courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture


Wabi-Sabi House Construction Site Photo, courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture and Living Home Construction; capturing the mountain view that the full height glazing will allow at the end of each volume.

We look forward to bringing you more updates as the home’s construction progresses. The anticipated completion is July 2018 – watch this space! We are specialists in contemporary residential projects in the American West and would love to hear from you if you are interested in bringing your own vision of your dream home to life!

Design Arts '17 Exhibition at the Rio Gallery

Do you love arts, culture, design and architecture? Why not visit the Rio Gallery in downtown Salt Lake City, where our award-winning LOOP Bench is on display as part of the Design Arts '17 exhibition?


The Design Arts platform is an annual review dedicated to the promotion of excellence in the diverse fields of design in Utah. They strive to help community members see, experience, utilize and value the art of design that surrounds us. The LOOP Bench Project, which won a Design Arts '17 award for design excellence from the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, Division of Arts & Museums, takes the native ocean flora along the Manhattan Beach, California, coastline as its point of departure. The bench is a simple, solid concrete “loop” derived from a section of slice of the basic tube structure of much of the sea flora studied. It is curved with a slight undulation in the long direction and square in the short direction with eased edges. It is constructed using a mold and cast with high strength, fiber-infused concrete with its overall dimension being approximately 2’ x 9’. The concrete is bright white, hand-toweled smooth with a power buffed, glossy finish on all surfaces. Working in collaboration with local Utah artisan, we developed a mold and a foam-and-wood positive so that future editions of the bench could easily be visualized and cast. The first bench was installed on the Manhattan Beach Strand this summer. 

From now until October 20th, the Rio Gallery will display this year's best and brightest in architecture, industrial, product, information / media / graphic, and realized, conceptual, and prototype design as part of the Design Arts '17 exhibition. The closing reception, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Friday, October 20th from 6-9pm. We hope to see you there to celebrate this achievement and Salt Lake City design!

Rio Gallery, 300 S Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84102

Loop Bench

For Sparano + Mooney Architecture, great design at all scales is at the heart of our practice. We are urban architects based in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. As you may know we are engaged in developing architecture, urban designs and products and deliver these thoughtful, innovative and contemporary designs to accommodate our client’s vision and lifestyle. Yes, we design large-scale buildings – museums, performing arts centers, recreation and aquatic centers, mountain-modern residences, and centers of worship – but we also apply our creativity to smaller scale manifestations of our architectural mindset and are eager to continue developing this facet of our practice. This is why we were thrilled when a client contacted us about our design competition winner, the Loop Bench, and commissioned us to produce one as a memorial for installation in a specially-selected spot along the beach strand in the City of Manhattan Beach, California.

The Loop Bench, as tested and approved by SMA Principal Ludwing Juarez.

Originally conceived for the City of Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Division, our Loop Bench prototype takes the native ocean flora along the Manhattan Beach coastline as its point of departure. Our process for the design of this bench began with a survey of the natural jetsam and flotsam that presents itself on the shoreline of Manhattan Beach every day. This quotidian detritus revealed the presence of simple aquatic forms of “soft-shelled” sea life with many of the organisms having a hollow, tube-like architectural structure. Seaweed, kelp and other plant material were among the forms studied for the design.

The bench is a simple, solid concrete “loop” derived from a section or slice of the basic tube structure of much of the sea flora studied. It is curved with a slight undulation in the long direction and square in the short direction with eased edges. It is constructed using a mold and cast with high strength, fiber-infused concrete known as Organicrete®, which requires no metal reinforcement, with its overall dimension being approximately 2’ x 9’ and a weight of 1,600 lbs. The architects selected a bright white concrete, hand-toweled smooth with a power buffed, glossy finish on all surfaces. The bench structure sits on a deeply recessed, 1” high concrete plinth creating a visual separation from the sidewalk and a deep shadow line around the base of the bench. If desired, text can be etched into either the top or side of the concrete surfaces. The first bench that has been completed was installed for the aforementioned client on the Manhattan Beach Strand this summer.


Aquatic forms of “soft-shelled” sea life that formed the conceptual basis for the Loop Bench.

We would be delighted to discuss a bespoke commission of the Loop Bench with you! It is designed to be situated outside, so would make an ideal and beautiful addition to any private project, and would be equally suited to a civic location such as a transportation hub, public park, or recreation center. Or, alternatively, there is no reason this sleek design object couldn’t also be placed inside as an objet d’art. We worked with Tyler Blaine of Modern Craftsman to help create this unique piece, and retain the mold for the work, meaning we are able to produce additional benches upon request.

Original rendering of the Loop Bench, courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

We are also delighted to announce that this newly constructed project has recently garnered a Design Arts 2017 Award! A juried exhibition of the work will be on display at the Rio Gallery between September 8 – October 20, 2017, with a closing reception and celebration on October 20 from 6-9pm to coincide with Salt Lake Gallery Stroll and Salt Lake Design Week. We hope to see you at the reception and look forward to discussing the award-winning Loop Bench with you then, or give us a call in the meantime if you’re interested in commissioning your own Loop Bench!

Fanatical about Form + Fashion: The Work of Cristóbal Balenciaga

Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) left such an indelible mark on the world of fashion design that his contemporary Coco Chanel once described him as the “only couturier in the truest sense of the word. The others are simply fashion designers”. This is high praise from fashion’s grande dame, and a new exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, titled Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, seeks to uncover why this virtuoso is universally regarded as the maestro of modern fashion design, haute couture, and architectural cut, shape and material.

X-ray photograph by Nick Veasey of Balenciaga’s 1955 silk taffeta evening dress. Courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum© Nick Veasey

Born in Getaria, a small fishing village in the Basque region of northern Spain, Cristóbal Balenciaga first encountered fashion through his mother, a seamstress whose clients included glamorous ladies from the local provinces. Remarkably, when Balenciaga was only twelve years old, he began an apprenticeship at a tailor’s shop in the fashionable resort town of San Sebastian, which would shape his career significantly. Here, he learned technical skills that other couturiers lacked, including pattern drafting and cutting and the ability to assemble and finish a garment. In 1917, he established his first label, Eisa, which he always maintained as a diffusion line offering more affordable options to his clients. He then opened houses in Barcelona and Madrid before moving to Paris in 1937, with the Parisian outpost becoming the city’s most exclusive global destination for couture. Balenciaga’s reputation was that of a fierce perfectionist, his precision so exacting that he was known for ripping apart seams that were not to his liking and insisting his models walk in a stilted, haughty march in order to allow the garments to languish properly upon their bodies.  

Alberta Tiburzi in Cristóbal Balenciaga’s “Envelope Dress”, 1967. Photograph by Hiro Wakabayashi for Harper’s Bazaar. Courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum© Hiro

His uncompromising fastidiousness was not only astounding, but his approach to the shape and execution of his designs was also radical and extraordinarily clever – he pioneered new architectural shapes in women’s fashion, which he refined from season to season for his devoted clientele including Ava Gardner, Gloria Guinness and Mona von Bismarck, one of the richest women in the world who, upon hearing that Balenciaga had closed his fashion house in 1968, reportedly shut herself away in her room for three days. His designs, such as the baby doll and balloon-hemmed dresses, were groundbreaking. For example, he provoked the fashion world in 1957 when he introduced the “sack dress” at a time when Christian Dior’s New Look and hourglass silhouettes where very much still de rigeur; although the “sack” was met at first with disdain from the fashion press, the sleek, straight-up-and-down form that eliminated the wearer’s waist eventually filtered into the shift and mini dresses so popular in the 1960s and 1970s. This inclination toward abstraction would culminate in Balenciaga’s four-pointed, angular “envelope dress” of 1967, launched to critical acclaim and made from his favorite fabric, the lightweight but rigid silk gazar. Balenciaga’s sculptural forms would not only define mid-century fashion, but would also continue to inspire generations of designers in his wake, such as Paco Rabanne, Emanuel Ungaro, and Andre Courrèges, as well as the most recent Creative Directors of this resurrected fashion house, Nicolas Ghesquière and Demna Gvasalia.

Balenciaga’s spiral silk hat for Eisa, 1962 (left) and Nick Veasey’s X-ray photograph of the hat (right), with the hair comb still tucked inside. Courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum© the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; © Nick Veasey

This exhibition is not a definitive retrospective of Balenciaga’s work, instead highlighting the 1950s and 1960s as seminal decades in his oeuvre. Curator Cassie Davies-Strodder explains that the V&A sought to present the subject matter in a new manner to the staid clothes-on-a-mannequin approach often seen in exhibitions of contemporary fashion and historical clothing. “We are using new approaches, such as X-ray images and pattern animations, to reveal the hidden elements of Balenciaga’s design and construction process invisible to the naked eye,” she explains. The museum worked with photographer Nick Veasey to reveal in a new light the hidden structures and craftsmanship inherent in Balenciaga’s creations: the boning, hoops, dress weights, and even left-behind dress pins and hair combs all divulge themselves through Vesey’s forensic investigations. These images of Balenciaga’s work give us, as modern architects, a fresh insight into structure and form, not to mention the haunting reminder of the human hands that “built” these architectural feats of fashion.

“Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” is on view at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum until 18 February 2018.


“Perfect Form”, by Anna Zappia, Metropolis Magazine, May 2017 (print: p.156-161) and online

“Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion”, the Victoria & Albert Museum London (online)

“Introducing Cristóbal Balenciaga”, the Victoria & Albert Museum London (online)

Let There Be Light: The Art of James Turrell

“My art is about your seeing,” states the enigmatic artist James Turrell (b. 1943). Although one could argue that most art is intrinsically about the experience of the viewer “seeing” it, this is not art as we know it – art that asserts itself as a singular entity on a wall or polished concrete floor. Rather, Turrell’s art is pure, otherworldly, and intended to affect profoundly the viewer’s experience and perception when encountering the works crafted solely with light as the medium; light, not as a medium for looking at other things, but as “an architecture of space created with light”. As architects working in the American West, an area that possesses a unique quality of light, we are fascinated with Turrell and his tireless obsession with the effect that light, both celestial and manufactured, has on an occupant in a space.

“Bridget’s Bardo” by James Turrell at the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany, 2009. Photo courtesy James Turrell Studio. © James Turrell

Turrell, who was raised a Quaker, was often encouraged in his faith to “go inside and greet the light”, a metaphor for the soul searching that takes place in the austere Quaker meeting houses. Later, at university, he was fascinated by vibrant color and the field paintings of Mark Rothko. In graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, he realized that by positioning a slide projector just so, and by focusing the projector’s beam of light sharply at the corner of a wall, he could create a luminous apparition that appeared to hover and protrude into space. He had created space using the presence of light. As Turrell explains, this work, titled Afrum (White), was groundbreaking because “the light is used as material, and…it has a physical presence as such, and that [resulting] space is solid and filled and never empty”. His point is that “light can hold a volume, and have a surface”. The psychophysical effect is similar to the German term Ganzveld, a word used to describe the phenomenon of the total loss of depth perception when encountering a structureless field of vision. Indeed, some of Turrell’s works – including those at an infamous exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1980 – have caused visitors to precipitate to the floor after becoming so disoriented and confused, mistaking fields of light for solid walls.

“Afrum (White)” by James Turrell, 1966. Photo courtesy James Turrell Studio. © James Turrell

An obvious comparison might be to the work of Dan Flavin (1933-1966), a contemporary of Turrell’s renowned for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercial fluorescent light fixtures. However, while both artists were preoccupied with the effects that light could have on a room and viewing public, Flavin’s work used a light-emitting bulb, or an amalgamation of bulbs, as the subject matter – light was a byproduct of form; what Turrell requires of light is that it be objectless, and that it be pure space. Another comparison, given Turrell’s magnum opus titled “Roden Crater” located in the Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona, to which he has unwaveringly devoted his life, is to the Land art movement. The immersive work is a gateway to the contemplation of light, time and landscape, a “naked eye observatory” and offering to the element Turrell worships. Turrell has toiled on the project since 1977, and while it takes its place within the movement, Turrell insists: “I am not an ‘earthwork’ artist. I am totally involved in the sky”.

“James Turrell: You Who Look”, film directed by Jessica Yu.

Turrell’s work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at LACMA, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Much of his work is located in obscure locations across the globe: an 18,000 SF museum dedicated to his work in Argentina, a pyramid Turrell constructed in eastern Australia and another on the Yucatán Peninsula. “Roden Crater”, though not a constructed pyramid, nevertheless draws parallels with the archetype. Turrell’s chambers carved into the earth lead to sacred spaces – altars to divine light. 

Visceral, spiritual, abstract, theoretical, and elemental. Turrell’s art is perhaps so beguiling because embedded within the concept of light is the passage of time. Whether cosmic light or the light emitted from suffused, glowing bulbs, the light with which Turrell works and the resulting creations touch on something primordial. A painting may be psychedelic, but Turrell’s colorfields and optical illusions innately possess the ability to shift our consciousness. Turrell’s works are revelatory – “light itself is becoming the revelation”. This is powerful work that hints at a human connection with a higher supremacy and an interconnectedness with nature, truth, and a spiritual connection to the world around us.

The Los Angeles Design Festival: Celebrating L.A.'s Design Culture

It's that time of year Angelenos! The Los Angeles Design Festival kicks off this week, and will take place from June 8 - June 11 across the metropolis. Honoring L.A's status as a global design capital, the festival celebrates the city's rich design culture, with a purposefully broad definition of the term "design" in order to reflect L.A.'s diverse and exceptional talent. 

An opening night party and fundraiser will take place at City Market South, with additional scheduled events including: New California Craft, a design show curated by Happy Mundane championing a rediscovery of traditional craft techniques with a fresh, modern vision by artists and makers in California; Jig+Saw, a tour of the new creative community space for entrepreneurial women that provides business resources in a safe, welcoming environment in the Historic District; Atmosphere Pop-Up, a concept space event showcasing a collaboration of artists and designers inspired by the natural world and holistic approaches to design and wellness - activities include live painting session, soundbath and tea ceremony; and a tour of SCI-Arc (the alma mater of our own architect Anne Mooney!), the quarter-mile-long campus that houses a state-of-the-art laboratory for architectural experimentation.

"White Sail Pot" by Tracy Wilkinson at the Los Angeles Design Festival's New California Craft exhibition

The list of events is expansive, and as modern Los Angeles architects and designers, we are so excited to take part in this annual showcase of the city's best and brightest! Do you plan to attend the Los Angeles Design Festival? Let us know where and when and we hope to see you there to discuss art, architecture, design and culture brewing in L.A.!

The Status of Women - in Architecture

When the March, 2017 issue of The Architectural Review hit newsstands, in conjunction with International Women’s Day, women’s rights marches, and waves of pink “pussy hats”, it reopened and spurred an essential, if uncomfortable, dialogue that is vital to the future of our industry: the role, status and prospect of women in architecture. Issue number 1439, March 2017, explores the status that female architects occupy in the field during a time of global upheaval and a reconsideration of socio-political and economic values. It is also a reflection upon a century or more of sometimes nuanced, oftentimes blatant discrimination, obliteration, and systemic repression of women from the public record of architecture. So what’s it all about?

Denise Scott Brown, photographed by Robert Venturi, 1966. © Robert Venturi

Perhaps as a reaction to the divisive rhetoric currently pervasive in international politics, the “issue” of women’s rights is again at the forefront of social discourse. As contemporary Los Angeles architects and Salt Lake City architects, and as a firm with a leading female architect as a co-founder and principal, this debate is poignant. In “The Invisible Woman”, their article for the aforementioned issue of AR, Eva Alvarez and Carlos Gomez outline the ongoing struggles women architects face in their quest for legitimacy and recognition in the industry. Citing well-known examples of erasure – such as the Pritzker jury’s controversial failure to honor practice co-founder Denise Scott Brown as well as Robert Venturi for the Pritzker Prize in 1991 – Alvarez and Gomez underscore the pesky problems of sexism and lack of academic validity that frustratingly persist and are rampant in architecture today, as they were decades ago. As David Adjaye has noted, “We’re in the 21st century…This is such an old story, we should be way past this. I find it exhausting that women are still fighting for gender parity”. But fighting they are. In a survey conducted by AR, there’s still a long way to go toward equity in the profession. From hours worked and differences in salary to the experience of direct discrimination and sexual harassment, it is clear that architecture and the building industry continue to do a disservice to women working in the field, and to those who are contemplating associated careers. For instance, the survey reported that male partners in firms earn substantially more than female partners, and found that 32% of women polled compared to just 3% of men have experienced sexual discrimination in the workplace and industry in the past year.

The erasure of women and authorship in architecture: Zaha Hadid, from the Architectural Review, Issue number 1439, March 2017. Courtesy the Architectural Review

When the Pritzker committee overlooked her in 1991, an impassioned campaign began to retroactively revise the award so that Scott Brown would be duly credited. The committee did not alter its decree. Architect Scott Brown has said that the real prize was the grassroots petition to recognize her as an equal to her husband in their work together. Her 1989 essay “Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture” remains a key text about the inequity in the industry, and addresses the patriarchal slights she and other architects have had to endure – the blatant misattributions of shared designs, the (mis)assumptions about a woman’s role on an architectural project, the unwelcome entrance to the boy’s club. A 2016 New York Times article titled “I Am Not the Decorator: Female Architects Speak Out” chronicles the quotidian battle for equality in the profession. As the late, great architect Zaha Hadid stated, “It’s still a man’s world”. “Write about my work”, Scott Brown has pleaded, to those who would ask her husband about his lauded designs, but would merely implore her to discuss her “woman’s problem” in relation to the feminist movement.

From “Six Myths about Women in Architecture” by Justine Clark, on Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture© Parlour

Maybe we should follow Scott Brown’s pleas, and move on from this discussion, which to some may seem to perpetuate and ratify the “them” versus “us” dichotomy. But “we” have to start somewhere. AR has been instrumental in the first steps toward legitimizing women in architecture (as if women were not legitimate to begin with – but you get the point). The annual Architects Journal and Architectural Review Women in Architecture awards were just announced, and this year, Scott Brown was handed the Jane Drew Prize for raising the profile of women in architecture, as well as for her portfolio and research. Engaging in this dialogue and bringing awareness to the injustices that are continuously perpetrated are essential actions if we want to move on to a place of neutrality and equality. Of course, there are pioneers: Scott Brown, Drew, Hadid, Annabelle Selldorf, Amanda Levete – our own Anne Mooney. There are those who came before, who were outstanding in their own right but perhaps unable to fully emerge from the association with their spouses (Ray Eames) or with the “feminine realm” of designing furniture and interiors (Eileen Gray, Florence Knoll). Let’s champion each of these trailblazers, let’s talk about their work and herald them as individuals. Let’s encourage young women to enter this profession and elevate architecture to a place where the playing field is even, the accolades are gender-blind and discourse no longer need bother worrying about the “problem” of being a woman in architecture.


1.       “The Invisible Woman: How Female Architects were Erased from History”, by Eva Alvarez and Carlos Gomez, The Architectural Review, Issue 1439, March 2017 (print and online)

2.       “How Architecture Cheats Women: Results of the 2017 Women in Architecture Survey Revealed”, by Bruce Tether, The Architectural Review, Issue 1439, March 2017 (print and online)

3.       “I Am Not the Decorator: Female Architects Speak Out”, by Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times, April 12th, 2016 (online and in print, April 13th, Page C1)

4.       “Denise Scott Brown and the Fight for Recognition”, by Mimi Zeiger, The Architectural Review, Issue 1439, March 2017 (print and online)

5.       “Denise Scott Brown wins Jane Drew Prize 2017 for Women in Architecture”, by Dan Howarth, dezeen, February 7th, 2017

6.       “David Adjaye ‘embarrassed as a male’ that women still need to fight for gender equality”, by Dan Howarth, dezeen, January 23rd, 2017

7.       “Six Myths about Women in Architecture”, by Justine Clark, Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture, September 6th, 2014