A Star is Born: Pulsar House Project wins 2016 Design Arts Utah Award

Sparano + Mooney Architecture is delighted to announce that our Pulsar House Project has been recognized with a 2016 DesignArts Utah Award! The Utah Division of Arts & Museums DesignArts Program is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in the diverse fields of architecture, graphic and industrial design in Utah. They strive to help the citizens of Utah see, experience, use and value the art of design that surrounds us daily – we are honored that our architects were chosen as a recipient of this year’s award!

Creating a design for a client’s new home is always a great opportunity for an architect.  For this house, an investigation into pulsars (short for pulsating radio star) formed the conceptual foundation of this residential architecture project. Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation. Observations of a pulsar in a binary neutron star system were used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitational radiation. This residential project was designed for a pilot who envisioned an ultra-modern house on earth, connected to the stars.

Our team analyzed the activity of two particular pulsars, the Crab Nebula (catalogue designations M1, NGC 1952, Taurus A) and Vela Pulsar (PSR J0835-4510 or PSR B0833-45) on the date of August 16th, 2010, a day that the client wished to commemorate through the architecture of his mountain home. The forms were generated to highlight the physical relationships between each pulsar trail and the mountain site located in a canyon between Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah.

In a series of physical study models for the architecture, each pulsar trail is represented as the centerline of the negative space, the magnitude of the pulsar defines the lofting boundary of the centerline, and the geological location of the site is shown as the original 4” x 4” x 4” volume. At the same time our architects developed digital models – full scale in the computer – to study the form and precisely model the spaces and interior experience.  In the programming studies for the house, the pulsar trail acts as a timeline moving through each scene of the client’s daily activities. These events are all connected accurately in the architectural plan and the cross sections with the pulsar location at a specific moment. The final massing is a combination of TIME (programming study) and SPACE (formal study).

The architectural design process incorporated this body of research with broader investigations of the solar system, and generated residential architecture that is simultaneously site specific and universally grounded. In responding to the mountain site, we positioned the form of the house straddling the ridgeline, engaged with the slope at the high end of the site and floating above the land as it falls away, and the linear windows on the façades are meticulously designed to create a dramatic projection effect provided by natural sunlight, which changes continuously according to the time of day and seasons. We selected metal as the façade finish, which has a patina of age, sustainability, recycling and adaptive re-use. This material is also an ideal architectural response to the local climate in Utah.

The architects at Sparano + Mooney are over the moon with the award, and we invite you learn more about the project by visiting an exhibition showcasing this design and all of the other 2016 DesignArts Award winners. The DesignArts Utah ’16 Exhibition will be held September 9th – October 21st, 2016 in the Rio Gallery at the historic Rio Grande Train Station in downtown Salt Lake City. The exhibition closing reception and celebration is October 21st, 2016 from 6-9pm and will coincide with Salt Lake Design Week and Salt Lake Gallery Stroll at the Rio Gallery.  Then let us know if you are ready for our architects to design a one-of-a-kind work of architecture for your residential project in Park City, Salt Lake City or Los Angeles!