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

Open House at Sparano + Mooney Architecture!

To coincide with the firm’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, Sparano + Mooney Architecture is pleased to invite you to our Open House on Friday, May 19th from 6-9pm!

"Roy's Sunrise" by Kent Budge, 2016

We will open our doors as part of the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll and South Salt Lake Creative Convergence, with a range of our architectural works on display. To coincide with the event, we are also excited to present “Point of View”, an exhibition of new photographs by acclaimed artist and Utah native Kent Budge. Renowned for elevating the aesthetics of common, everyday scenes, industrial landscapes and overlooked architectural details, Budge offers a means of uncovering a natural beauty and compositions that wait to be seen.

Salt Lake Gallery Stroll is a monthly, free event for the public to meet artists and browse the thriving arts scene in our vibrant city. The organization is committed to bringing the value of visual art to the forefront of Salt Lake City's cultural identity. By gathering galleries and other businesses to promote visual art, Salt Lake Gallery Stroll strives to stimulate interest and investment in an ever-growing local visual art community. We are thrilled to be a part of this important event! In addition, we are excited to partner with South Salt Lake Arts Council's Creative Convergence, two days of activities and events that bring together public and private sectors to discuss the potential for using arts as a means of economic development in South Salt Lake.

Please join us for an evening of art, architecture and creativity! 

Location: 57 W 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84115 (parking is available on Richards Street)


Searching for Beauty, Meaning and Truth in Architecture and Museums

It should be no secret that, as architects specializing in arts and culture projects in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and the American West, we adore museums. Their hallowed galleries contain priceless paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and objets d’art, but they also possess the residual stories of the artists themselves, countless visitors who pass through, talented curators who bring the exhibits to life, and architects who have helped realize those storied spaces. It is a pleasure and a privilege to roam the creative displays and learn from some of the most influential museum designs in the world, just as Anne Mooney and John Sparano did recently on their European tour of London and Paris where they visited Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Tate Modern in London and the Louvre, Picasso Museum and the Rodin Museum in Paris. The inspiration drawn from these stalwart institutions absolutely helps inform our own design process, and we are excited to incorporate new ideas into our own museum projects, such as the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) at Utah State University.

“Sectional Perspective of the Dome Area & Breakfast Room”, by Frank Copland, 1818. This section conveys the dual nature of Soane’s house as residence and museum. Image courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is truly a hidden gem in London. Founded by one of the most inventive architects of the 18th and 19th centuries, Sir John Soane (1753-1837), the museum was originally a home, office, architecture academy and space for Soane’s collections. Rebuilding and adding on to the property over a number of years, Soane embarked on an ambitious project: to turn the space into an educational monument to architecture and a museum of architectural models, casts and drawings organized in a rational, if eclectic, manner. Soane also graciously opened his collections and home to students, hoping the examples presented would aid their studies. In 1833, Soane bequeathed his home and its substance to the public and asked that they be preserved and kept open and free after his death. As he intended, his collections continue to inspire. For us, this project is all about the architectural section: letting light into a mass through strategic cuts in the architecture’s floor, walls and roof. The gallery walls open to reveal Soane’s immense collection, and open yet again to connect spaces through carefully considered sight lines. The organization of the museum may seem chaotic, but in fact, Soane designed the juxtapositions carefully and purposefully to affect the visitors’ experience of his collections. We were in awe of the space and its contents.

Since it opened in 2000 in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern in London has consistently broken attendance records with its thought-provoking exhibitions of international modern and contemporary art. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron converted the industrial structure while retaining much of the original character of the building, and also completed an addition to the museum that opened this year to house new gallery, performance, education and administrative spaces. The iconic power station, with its brick construction, imposing central Boiler House Tower chimney, and broad edifice that abuts the River Thames, has welcomed more than 40 million visitors and has presented acclaimed exhibitions by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg and Damien Hirst; the permanent collection is home to an entire room of moody Mark Rothko paintings, and controversial installations have included Doris Salcedo’s subterranean chasm titled “Shibboleth”, a giant crack in the Turbine Hall’s concrete floor into which overzealous patrons (in)famously slipped and fell. The Tate Modern is impressive in its scale, use of materials, and successful conversion of historic architecture into a beacon of modern art and architecture. It beckons us time and time again.

The Picasso Museum, with Pablo Picasso’s “La Chèvre” (The Goat, 1950) sculpture in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Paris Museum Pass. © INTERMUSÉES

The Picasso Museum, or the Musée National Picasso, in Paris has recently re-opened after a major renovation and it is a delight, as well as an important example of the state’s commitment to preserving and showcasing creations by one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The museum is unique in its arrangement of the works within the asymmetrical footprint of the historical building, which was built in the 17th century as a private courtyard home in the Italian Baroque and French classical style. The challenges of exhibiting in variable gallery spaces are embraced rather than fought, resulting in a quirky yet intimate setting for Picasso’s paintings, sculptures, and drawings and his personal collection of art by old and contemporary masters. As you move higher in the building, the rooms become smaller in scale and labyrinthine. Each room is a surprise waiting to be discovered, offering unique ambiances around every corner and glimpses into other spaces.

The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, front view and walkway. Rendering courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

After visiting these exceptional treasure troves of art and architecture, we are inspired to continue work on our own museum project: The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University. As part of the USU Fine Arts Complex, the renovation to NEHMA includes the design of a three story, approximately 7,600 SF addition on the west side of the existing campus museum as well as renovation of parts of the existing museum. The expansion’s primary goal is to provide a new entrance for the museum, creating a stronger campus presence and connection. It will also: allow for the relocation of administrative offices to a new area in order to provide research space for scholars and curatorial staff; provide shared presentation and teaching and learning spaces suitable for visiting artists, elementary school visits, seminars and classes in art, design and art history; increase available climate-controlled, secure storage and exhibition space for the collection; and preserve emergency and loading dock access for operational personnel. Construction is underway with projected completion in 2018.

Our trip to London and Paris was an incredible learning experience and we are excited to apply these lessons to our practice and projects. Do you love museums? Do you have a museum, arts or culture project you want to begin? Give us a call and let’s talk art and architecture!

The Beauty of Imperfection in Architecture

In an era of quick-fix consumerism, it might be tempting to eschew the flawed in favor of the refined. Why mend a broken flower pot when a shiny new model can easily, and cheaply, be acquired from any number of big-box stores that continue to pop up in our neighborhoods? Why refinish 100 year-old wood floors when synthetic, sanitized replacement planks can be laid instead? Well – why not? What is the true cost of this “modern” need to resolve all that is deficient? This is a poignant question, one that hints at a new wave of appreciation for the true and the humble in all facets of life, including architecture and design.

Wabi-Sabi House heuristic device. Courtesy of Sparano + Mooney Architecture

The idea that the rough should be celebrated as the refined is not a new concept. It is an ancient tenet of Japanese aesthetic culture known as wabi-sabi, a philosophy of beauty that embraces the imperfect, the incomplete and the transient. Wabi-sabi elevates simplicity and honesty in expression, those modest things in our world that express beauty as they weather and age. Wabi-sabi is representative of craft that rejoices in the “authentic”. It is not a well-defined term; rather, it is one that is imbued with specific cultural connotations and innate understanding. In fact, as Leonard Koren states in his book “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers”, the Japanese do not attempt to define the movement in intellectual terms, instead preferring to revel in the “feeling” such unconventional beauty bestows upon the beholder. In line with wabi-sabi is the concept of kintsugi, a philosophy that treats breakage as part of the history of an object, and therefore an integral component of that object’s life. With kintsugi, cracks are filled with lacquer or golden material so as to highlight the damage and uphold the memory of the passage of time. With both wabi-sabi and kintsugi, an eyesore is transformed into a unique design detail.

The Anahi Restaurant, Paris. Photograph by Alexandre & Emilie (Persona production) for Yatzer; in homage to the Japanese concept of kintsugi, copper leaf highlights the cracks left by centuries of use. ©YATZERLAND LT

As contemporary architects in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, Sparano + Mooney Architecture does not adhere to the values of idealistic beauty in design; rather, we seek to uphold the beauty of the subtle. We recently designed a house that embeds the idea wabi-sabi into the foundation of the residence. In conceiving the Wabi-Sabi House and while walking the site, the work began to coalesce around an idea of textures, materials, and expressed joinery and connections in the architecture.  “It is interesting that there is not a term for this concept in the English language” says project architect Nate King. “The closest that we have is the idea of ‘rustic’. This home was based around this idea of accentuating the imperfect set against a backdrop of the refined, thereby allowing these contrasting notions to build on each other. The imperfect therefore appears to give more character and the refined appears even more polished”, he explains.

Located in Emigration Canyon above Salt Lake City, Utah, this 5,000 SF home celebrates a unique elevated canyon view with a direct connection to nature. Designed for a young family, this home is separated into two volumes that float above the landscape. The north volume is oriented along a direct east-to-west axis and includes the private domestic functions to address the quiet static mountain views to the north. The southwest volume includes the more public, active gathering spaces and is oriented along the canyon axis toward dramatic views to the city below.

Upon entry, the occupant is presented with a corridor and framed view of the mountains to the west. As one progresses through the space, the shift in program is presented with the architecture of the public volume aligned directly with the canyon view. The architecture includes a lower level that incorporates a creative office space with a private outdoor patio. This Utah home, designed to LEED specifications, includes a double wall system for maximum r-value and a vegetated roof, and is being constructed to include a roof-mounted solar PV array. The Wabi-Sabi House is expected to break ground in May 2017.

 Section of a “beetle kill” log. Courtesy Sparano + Mooney Architecture

We hope to achieve a state of grace with this Utah residential design that does not shy away from natural processes, unpretentious irregularity, and heartfelt simplicity. As we continue to explore the nuances of wabi-sabi, and its potential to influence our design process, we welcome the opportunity to discuss how the concept might be applied to your next project. In the meantime, we will look to the cracks in the pavement for inspiration and reflect on how our own flaws make us each perfectly…imperfect.


“Broken is Beautiful: The Japanese Tradition that Makes Broken Things Even Better than Brand New”, Nancy Mitchell, 19 May 2016, Apartment Therapy (online)

“Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers”, Leonard Koren (Point Reyes: Imperfect Publishing, 2008)

Project Updates from Sparano + Mooney Architecture

2017 has thus far been busy for the Sparano + Mooney Architecture team and we are pleased to bring you a report on our progress! We remain committed to collaborating with our clients to produce great design, deliver thoughtful, innovative and contemporary design solutions, and position our exceptional people at dynamic centers of architecture. As architects working throughout the American West, Sparano + Mooney Architecture is dedicated to elevating a strong regional design movement and we welcome the opportunity to discuss your next civic, cultural, performing arts, master planning, worship, mixed-use, residential or commercial project. In the meantime, perhaps the updates below will help inspire!

Wabi-Sabi House, rendering courtesy of Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Rawtopia Restaurant

The award-winning Salt Lake City restaurant, Rawtopia, is relocating to a larger space in the Olympus Hills Shopping Center where its flagship location will serve raw, vegetarian, vegan and organic fare. The restaurant selected our architectural team to create its new space which will double the restaurant’s previous capacity, as well as provide new kitchen space and equipment that will allow for menu expansion. In addition to fine dining, the restaurant design allows for a variety of food services, including a smoothie bar, patio dining and a to-go counter for those who love their Rawtopia on the run. The project is currently under construction and is scheduled to open early this summer.

Utah State University Fine Arts Complex

Utah State University’s Kent Concert Hall is undergoing a major renovation which will transform it from a multi-functional proscenium stage, to a state of the art choral and orchestral performance space. As part of the renovation, it will be renamed to the Newel G. and Jean C. Daines Concert Hall. The project is currently under construction, with theatrical and audio-visual systems being installed, tested and programmed. The first performance is scheduled for next fall, and the acoustics should be amazing!

The USU Fine Arts Center’s Scene Shop and Costume Shop were designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture to increase the existing shops’ square footage to accommodate large sets and costume production, as well as modern, professional equipment to provide students a real-world theatrical experience. Both shops are now occupied by the user groups who are enjoying the new teaching and learning spaces and improved theater programming and production capabilities.

The Fine Art Complex Courtyard improvements include concrete and brick paving which has been installed, with landscape, lighting and irrigation in process. This landscape project should be wrapping in the coming months, and will provide a functional and beautifully designed focal point as a gathering space for students, faculty and visitors to the Fine Arts Complex.

A preview of the Kent Concert Hall, Utah State University – construction in progress

Recreation Projects

Our Studio City Recreation Center and Gymnasium in Beeman Park will be Los Angeles’s first Net Zero Energy pilot project. The new 12,000 SF facility will be an immeasurable architectural asset to the neighborhood and community, and will also demonstrate the feasibility of designing self-sustaining, energy-efficient municipal buildings. The project is moving into the Design Development phase and we are excited to partner with the City of Los Angeles on this state-of-the-art, modern recreation facility.

The Pawley Pool Aquatic Facility, within the Desert Recreation District in Southern California, will serve the needs of the largest recreation district in the state. Among other amenities, the new pool and bathhouse will feature an activity swimming pool, lap lanes, new pool decks, meeting rooms, event spaces, parking and landscaping. The Design Development phase is complete, and we are awaiting the client’s comments before our architects will be moving onto Construction Documents.

Working with Landmark Design, we developed a series of design and planning options exploring the expansion and potential diversification of the amenities for the Deseret Peak Recreation complex in Tooele County. On 15 February 2017, the entire consultant team held a public open house at the Tooele County building and received community feedback. The team presented some fantastic opportunities to help user groups improve concert events, equestrian facilities and the county fair property. The feedback has been consolidated into a single document and next steps are currently being planned in coordination with the community toward a final master plan for the complex.

New Residential Ground Breakings

The Tree House project is located in the 9th and 9th neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. This modern architecture urban house features a double height great room, a courtyard with a pool, and a secluded master suite. The project is currently under construction with anticipated completion at the end of the year.

The Tree House, rendering courtesy of Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Located in Emigration Canyon above Salt Lake City, Utah, the Wabi-Sabi House project is a new home that is designed to celebrate a unique elevated canyon view with a direct connection to nature. We are happy to report that the permit has been picked up, the Limit of Disturbance fence is installed, and our LEED for homes planning is underway. Ground breaking is scheduled for May. The exterior of the home is a cedar rain screen cladding, and the materials for the interior include a contrast of pure white walls against a white oak wood flooring, cabinetry and hemlock ceilings.

Big Cartel Creative Workspace

You may recall reading our recent blog post about Big Cartel, our fantastic client and an incredibly cool webstore business provider dedicated to assisting creatives in reaching their potential. We have just finished a project to help Big Cartel design their company headquarters, and are honored to have helped bring the firm’s vision for their workspace to life. Located in the historic warehouse district in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, the architectural design of this 3,200 SF tenant improvement was highly collaborative with the client and centered on creating a minimalist space celebrating the contrast between new and historic design elements. Simple detailing and consistent materials provide the setting for Big Cartel’s artist-based platform and graphic style. 

Be sure to visit our blog in the coming months for in-depth articles about these projects, and the many others that are currently in the works, and please feel free to contact us if you have an idea you’d like our architects to help you turn into a reality!

California Cool: The Met Archive goes Digital, Online, and Free

Smooth aesthetics, a razor sharp cultural focus, and the cutting edge of art, architecture and design – for those who call Los Angeles home, it might be all bright-lights-big-city, the epicenter of California cool and an endless vista of sophisticated whimsy, but we rarely stop to ponder from where this wellspring of American popular culture was sprung. As contemporary Los Angeles architects, we are constantly influenced by the legacy of SoCal pioneers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and John Lautner. But what about those who came before? Those who laid the ground work, built the infrastructure of architecture we now enjoy, and first realized the potential of this light and languid landscape; who saw a future in the mountainous backdrop and promoted a substance of architectural style to the masses who might want to go west and prosper? Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which has recently digitized a large portion of its photographic design archive, we can now glimpse the nascence of the metropolis and its surrounding territory.

"architectural abstract" by Susan Sermoneta is licensed through Creative Commons under CC BY 2.0. 

With the release of more than 375,000 images to the public domain, the legendary New York institution has not only set a precedent for other cultural behemoths but has also made the history of California accessible in a way that was previously only possible to those who had the time, resources and inclination to visit the archive in person. The Met digitized the images and uploaded them to the Creative Commons, a non-profit that offers an alternative to full copyright, meaning all of the images are free to view and download without copyright restrictions, and will also be accessible on platforms like Wikimedia. As the Met’s Director, Thomas P. Campbell, has commented, the museum “now becomes the largest and most diverse open access museum collection in the world”, which makes art, architecture and design culture available to audiences who may only have dreamed of visiting the prestigious collections prior to the ambitious project. Importantly, the Met’s direction has set the tone for local stalwarts the Getty and LACMA, which have also begun similar initiatives. For example, Getty Images – one of (if not the) the largest source of imagery in the world – recently announced that it will allow free, non-commercial embedding of 35 million pictures from its stock photography database. These moves provide unfettered access to a diverse range of users and help build appreciation for art, architecture, design and culture among a wide audience.

“Los Angeles”, albumen silver print from glass negative, Carleton E. Watkins, 1876, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

With the dissemination of information increasingly, and quite literally, at our fingertips, the practice of making knowledge sharing a free and equitable activity is growing in popularity and demand. Creative Commons has become a trailblazer in the field of open global collaboration, helping to build a productive digital realm where anyone and everyone can upload their images for use and appreciation by the general public. CC helps individuals and institutions legally share information and provides free, easy-to-use copyright licenses, which in turn fosters a simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use creative works on conditions of the creators’ choice. In this way, the works become part of the public domain with the promise that users appropriately credit the original owner. While this caveat places great trust in the members of the public, it also opens an important dialogue about the governance of intellect, which is why CC is overseen by a network of over 500 researchers, activists and legal, education and policy advocates and volunteers who serve as CC representatives in over 85 countries to ensure region-specific approaches to copyright and intellectual property. They work with organizations and platforms including flickr, Wikipedia, YouTube, and vimeo to guarantee the responsible sharing of open data, so that institutions like the Met feel comfortable releasing content that otherwise would be closely guarded.

“Migrant Pea Picker’s Makeshift Home”, gelatin silver print, Dorothea Lange, 1936, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

As architects in Los Angeles who often look to the past to help us build the future of this great city, we are always researching, learning and seeking new creative inspiration. We are grateful to the Met for taking this groundbreaking step toward the democratization of culture, and will certainly be turning to the Met Archive and other digital repositories of artistic knowledge as we continue to design modern architecture in Los Angeles. In the meantime, we’ll continue to share our own original work and hope you’ll share your ideas with us, too!

Source: “Ten of the Coolest California Images from the Newly Digitized Met Archive”, by Julia Wick, laist, February 8th, 2017 (online)


The Global, the Local and the Authentic in Contemporary Architecture

No matter which side of the aisle your views rest upon, it is generally agreed that the world is moving into uncharted socio-political and economic territory. As modern architects living and working in the American West, we can’t help but wonder how this new order will affect our industry: How will clients feel about the home of their dreams when their dreams may no longer reflect reality? Alternatively, will others feel bolstered by the changes that have occurred and want to invest further in their future on terra firma? What will happen to the cost of architecture, and the materials and labor of its construction? How will a shifting perception of the “local” versus the “global” influence the way our architects design and how our clients view contemporary architecture?

Horizon House by RCR Arquitectes. Photo courtesy of P. Sau. © RCR Bunka Fundació Privada

It seems others are asking similar questions. The 2017 Pritzker Prize (architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel) was awarded to a firm that, like Sparano + Mooney Architecture, is attempting to strike a delicate balance between maintaining a regional dialect and simultaneously conversing fluently in the international architectural dialogue. RCR Arquitectes, founded in 1988 by Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta in Olot, Spain, is the 2017 Pritzker laureate. Hailed by the jury for an “approach that creates buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time,” RCR is known for an adept handling of natural and industrial materials, and sensitive integration of their built environments into the surrounding landscapes. As the Pritzker jury noted, RCR have resisted “the call of the metropolis in favor of remaining closely connected to their roots”.

As the Los Angeles Times has reported, it is – if not explicitly stated – easy to implicitly read the jury’s decision as a comment on the ways that globalization, urbanization, the economic crisis and current political climate have derailed rural culture and the “authentic” in localized architecture. Indeed, the jury’s statement sharply underlines this viewpoint: “We live in a globalized world where we must rely on international influences, trade, discussion, transactions, etc. But more and more people fear that, because of this international influence, we will lost our local values, our local art, and our local customs.” There is anxiety here, the same trepidation that some architectural analysts have credited with giving rise to the political forces we’ve recently seen at play. The LA Times also indicates that while this fear is justified, temperance may be found in a new approach to the production and consumption of culture, and architecture might play an essential role in this new path. RCR’s tagline might say it best: the need for a “universe of shared creativity”, in which we are able to stand firmly rooted but welcoming to wider socio/economic/political/historical/cultural influences. Looking out, while honoring what’s within.

Topaz Museum + Education Center, designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture. Photo courtesy of Brian Buroker

It is important to consider this language and what it might mean to us and our own “regional” approach, set within the inevitable, international backdrop of our industry. Our firm collectively and our architects individually draw inspiration from the context of the American West – the region’s unique history, landscape, materials, architecture and culture has deeply informed and inspired our work, which has been commissioned by clients in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and California, as well as Africa and Haiti; our team has lived, worked, and studied in London, Switzerland, Spain, China, Italy and Germany, as well as the United States. Our architectural clients hail from diverse backgrounds. This polyglot has nevertheless led SMA to believe in the potential of the American West as a point of departure for world-class design, and we have consistently produced a body of work as architects dedicated to contributing to the elevation of a strong regional design movement.

The Topaz Museum, for instance, was designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture to house the collections and present the experiences of the Japanese Americans detained at the nearby internment camp during WWII. It is tied directly to a remote locality, and yet it is inextricably linked to an ongoing debate about xenophobia and cultural identity. This relationship is complex. Is multicultural the new local? Can we entrust architecture to articulate our reservations about this new world? Perhaps it is not a matter of answering these questions definitively, but of the role of architecture to pose them in the first place.

Source: “Architecture’s highest honor goes to Catalan trio, with a nod to the forces that gave rise to Brexit and Trump”, by Christopher Hawthorne, the LA Times, March 1st, 2017

Uncommon Modern (Architecture)

Does the thought of mid-century modern architecture put some pep in your step? Do you long to surround yourself with glass and concrete assembled when the Rat Pack were roaming, or perhaps come home to an architect John Sugden-designed space each night? If so, you might want to check out Uncommon Modern Salt Lake! This event will celebrate mid-century modern architecture (buildings constructed between ca. 1945-1970) and kick off an inventory of period buildings in Salt Lake City. Stop by cityhomeCOLLECTIVE at 645 E South Temple tomorrow, February 9th from 7pm, to take part in this important project.

Roberta Sugden House, by John Sugden, 1955. Courtesy the Utah Heritage Foundation

Supported in part by Preservation Utah, AIA Utah, the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning, and Sparano + Mooney ArchitectureUncommon Modern Salt Lake  follows similar efforts in Houston and Philadelphia to categorize and exhibit modernist architecture in an urban context, whether residential or commercial. The project aims to educate the public about the place modernism occupies in Salt Lake City's built environment and promote advocacy for buildings that might be in jeopardy - each of us has the opportunity to participate in the preservation of our city's heritage. To find out more about the project, please visit the Uncommon Modern Salt Lake Facebook page, and come on down to the event tomorrow! As Salt Lake City modern architects, we hope to see you at the event and would love to talk about designing your next modern architecture project!

A Phoenix Rises in Los Angeles: Architects Restore the Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial

What do a London-born sculptor, Connecticut-based/German-native artist, the Mormon Battalion of Salt Lake City, Mormon Battalion of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and our firm of Los Angeles architects have in common? The answer might surprise you: the Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial in Los Angeles, California. As reported on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, January 28th, 2017, thanks to generous support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and with the technical and design team at  Sparano + Mooney Architecture, the “forgotten memorial” is undergoing critical restoration to return the monument to its original civic glory. 

Photo: Bruce Cox, Los Angeles Times, July 3rd, 1958. © Los Angeles Times

If you drive along the Hollywood Freeway, cross the Los Angeles River, pass Union Station, and look towards Chinatown, you may have noticed an enormous – if blighted – stone fortification of sculptural carvings, some 300,000 multi-colored mosaic tiles that once facilitated a dramatic 77-foot-wide waterfall, and a red brick wall, now blistered by worn graffiti and years of inattention. This is the current state of the memorial, which, after 40 years of neglect, will be resurrected after a serious effort to resuscitate this stirring tribute to military history, the enduring pioneer spirit, and California’s heritage. “It’s the most historically and geographically important monument that nobody knows about,” says Clare Haggarty, manager of L.A. County’s art collections.

The Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial was dedicated on July 3rd, 1958, and celebrates the first raising of the U.S. flag over Los Angeles in 1847. At the dedication, members of the Mormon Battalion of Salt Lake City reenacted this historic event, originally performed by their forbearers, the Mormon Battalion from Council Bluffs, Iowa (joined by the 1st Regiment of Dragoons and the New York Volunteers) some 111 years earlier. These pioneering members of the U.S. military had marched some 2,000 miles to Los Angeles in preparation to protect the city from destruction in the Mexican-American war. The war had ended upon their arrival, but despite the ceasefire the Battalion stayed on long enough to hoist our nation’s emblem in commemoration of the first Fourth of July in Los Angeles. The event took place on the earthen walls of a fort the soldiers had built in order to defend the city during the conflict, named for Benjamin Moore, an officer who lost his life fighting in a battle near San Diego. 

The creation of the Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial resulted from the influence of the L.A. Society of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, as well as the need for a large architectural wall to contain the earthen embankment known as Ft. Moore Hill, which remained after much of the original fort was leveled to make way for roads, buildings and a new Civic Center. The face of the hill was the design canvas for London-born artists Albert Stewart and Connecticut-based, German native Henry Kreis, immigrant sculptors who designed the bas-relief vignettes depicting the Mormon Battalion’s march and flag-raising, period transportation infrastructure, and regional scenes including cattle ranching and orange groves. The memorial also features a tableau recognizing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as a sponsor of the monument, and a 68-foot tall pylon bearing an eagle-adorned dedication inscription.

In 1977, the memorial’s centerpiece – an enormous cascading waterfall – was turned off due to drought conditions, and when water was once again plentiful, the waterfall was sadly beyond salvage. The mosaic tiles were crumbling, and the pumps had been vandalized. The red bricks became an urban canvas for graffiti, and the terra cotta tiles comprising the bas relief sculpture became worn and unkempt. The Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial declined into obscurity, until an elaborate reenactment in 1997 reignited the community’s interest in the monument and its place in American history. After many years of effort, a plan for revitalization was approved in 2014, with funds committed from the Board of Supervisors and the City of Los Angeles. Sparano + Mooney Architecture is proud to be a part of this restoration, which will see the waterfall flow again (with a mindful balance between historical accuracy and water conservation), the tiles replaced, the bas-relief mural refurbished and the graffiti scoured away. A re-dedication is planned and we hope that when the date is announced, we will see you at the site of the Ft. Moore Pioneer Memorial, which will once again serve as a poignant reminder of our nation’s and Los Angeles’ architecture history and heritage.

Hot off the Press! The Salt Lake Cultural Core Action Plan is Approved and in Print

We are excited to announce that the Salt Lake Cultural Core Action Plan has been unanimously adopted by both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, and that the Plan is being printed for posterity as this post goes live! Sparano + Mooney Architecture is honored to have been integral to the development of this master planning initiative, which seeks to make our downtown an even more dynamic and celebrated place to live, work and create.

Image Courtesy of BWP

Our firm worked with a national consulting team, including the Cultural Planning Group, BWP Communications, Nancy Boskoff, Soren Simonsen, Surale Phillips, and Holly Yocum and Lia Summers of Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City, respectively, and was well as stakeholders and members of our thriving creative community, to realize this important catalyst for long-term development in the "Core" - an area stretching from North Temple to 400 South and from 600 West to 400 East. This area is identifiable as the heart of the city’s happenings, and the master plan intends to heighten civic pride in our downtown community and its offerings. Luckily for residents, both the City and County have officially recognized the importance of having a vibrant, identifiable and distinct arts and cultural center to enhance quality of life and economic viability. Our team of architects led the placemaking, urban design and public art planning effort to infuse the City with great design experiences at multiple scales, for diverse local and out-of-state visitors alike to enjoy.  

We would like to thank our colleagues, local architects, urban designers and practitioners and focus groups for helping to make the Salt Lake Cultural Core Action Plan a success and a reality. Let's continue to work together to promote our city as the arts and cultural hub that it is, and to support the creative communities that call Salt Lake City their home. And of course, please get in touch with us if you have an arts, culture, or master planning project that you'd like us to help you with, in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, the American West or beyond! 

Now Showing at a Theater Near You - The Sundance Film Festival

The architecture and design connection between Los Angeles and Park City might not be immediately obvious – but to those in the film and entertainment industries (and for culture vultures in general) the two cities are inextricably linked. For a contemporary architecture firm with offices in both metropolises, Sparano Mooney Architects understands the rich, vibrant link and is excited that until January 29th, the 2017 Sundance Film Festival is previewing the most cutting-edge, avant-garde and downright awe-inspiring cinematic projects in venues across Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance Mountain Resort.  Angelenos and Utahans will gather together for inspiration and we hope to see our friends in both locations in Park City, Utah this, if you want a break from the films we can show you some of our new modern residential design in Park City!

Photo courtesy Filmmaker Magazine. © Filmmaker Magazine

We love film and the craftsmanship that filmmakers and actors pour into their work; as architects, we understand the passion involved and can’t wait to sample some of this year’s offerings. Think you might be able to spot the next Little Miss Sunshine, Whiplash or Beasts of the Southern Wild? Need a break from the incessant powder on Utah’s finest slopes? Then check out the 2017 Sundance Film Festival! Tickets are still available – visit for more information. We hope to see you at a screening near you!

Main Street Park City. Photo courtesy Gallery MAR. © GALLERYMAR.COM

Exhibition Highlight: Imagining UMOCA

We are pleased to announce the opening of an exciting new exhibition titled Imagining UMOCA, which will be on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art from January 24 - April 15, 2017.

Led by our own Anne Mooney in the Senior Design Studio course at the University of Utah's School of Architecture, students imagined possibilities for expanding the museum to serve its diverse and growing audience. They began by researching contemporary artists, and then developed their analyses into 3-dimensional designs for one of three downtown sites, attempting to capture the essence of the artist they selected in their proposals. These final concepts by six students will be exhibited in the museum's Ed Space Gallery. The concepts meet UMOCA's programmatic and functional requirements, while also creating a spatial experience that unfolds gradually for the visitor and engages both body and mind. 

Rendering by Michael Frazier

Imagining UMOCA is on display in the Ed Space Gallery at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art from January 24 - April 15, 2017. The opening reception will be held on February 3, 2017 from 7-9pm. The exhibition is generously supported by Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks (ZAP). We hope to see you there! And, if you have a museum or cultural project in mind that you would like us to help you imagine and realize, please get in touch!

An Artist among Us: The Sketches of Jorge Beltran

There’s no doubt about it – the Sparano + Mooney Architecture team are a talented bunch. We work hard to deliver thoughtful, innovative and contemporary design solutions; every day striving to produce beautiful architecture for our amazing clients. The interpretation of an idea from start to finish often involves numerous iterations of sketches, 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 Jorge Beltran, who recently celebrated eleven years with the firm, also produces phenomenal sketches at work and in his free time and is a supremely talented artist in his own right? We are blown away by Jorge’s talent, and interviewed him to discover more about his work.

When did you first begin to draw?  I started drawing in elementary school. The first notebook my mom bought me had Scooby-Doo on the cover. I tried to sketch it many times.

How did you learn to draw? Did anyone in particular teach or inspire you to draw? I would always sketch on my own until I enrolled in our local community center to take the “Intro to Art” class. By this time I had been fascinated by the paintings that were inside our Bible. I always tried to sketch them – those paintings were my daily inspiration.

Do you still love drawing as much as when you first began? I stopped drawing for a long time. The last “serious” drawing I made was way back in 2001. That was my “retirement” from art! After this, I only produced architecture-related work. Now that I recently started free-hand sketching again, it does feel the same as when I first began as a kid and I love it!

Why do you draw? After all these years in architecture (I started college as an Art Major before I switched) I kept telling myself that I needed to start sketching again. Years passed by and maybe only a handful of (non-architectural) sketches made it to see the light of day. If I’m not drawing, I feel as if I am missing something – I need more than the click of the mouse every day!  

What inspires you? My family is my inspiration. They do what they love and they are great at it. I hope to think I do the same.

How does drawing influence how you practice architecture? Sketching gives me a lot of freedom, it makes me see architecture with fresh eyes every time.

Have you ever exhibited your artwork? Not in a gallery, but I was fortunate enough to have had some of my work exhibited. My art class work was promoted in the local TV news, and my piece was one of the few that was featured in the press. I entered art contests throughout my school years and was lucky enough to have those artworks exhibited.

What is your favorite subject matter? As of now, my favorite subject matter is diverse and just something that catches my attention.

What is your favorite medium? My favorite medium right now is pen and/or marker on napkins. I love napkins since they give me the freedom to not hesitate and just draw anything as loosely as I want. I sketch any artwork or images that catch my attention online.

Do you like talking about your artwork and talent? I tend to keep it mostly private, especially since right now I am only sketching from images that I find online. I share a few sketches with my family and a group of friends BUT once someone asks me about it I can’t seem to stop talking about it! On that note, I hope my family doesn’t get tired and annoyed with me drawing their portraits!

When is your favorite time to draw, and do you have a favorite place to draw? My favorite time(s) to draw is late at night and sometimes whenever I can during lunch at work.

How do you title or describe your work? I don’t have any descriptions of any of the sketches since they are sketches of found images. If I find an image I like, I sketch it.

How do you hope your artwork will develop? I hope I can make more time so I can draw more often. As it is, I only sketch once or twice a week at the most. Eventually if time permits, I would like to go back to where I left back in 2001 and with the practice/inspiration/exploration I get from the images I find online, I might get to where I’m doing my own drawings…one napkin at a time.

Watch this space – we have a feeling that Jorge's talents will continue to flourish! In the meantime we are so grateful to count Jorge as a longstanding member of our team and can't wait to see what he draws next...

Happy Holidays from Sparano + Mooney Architecture!

At the close of another year, we gratefully pause to reflect on recent achievements and to share appreciation for our visionary clients, colleagues and collaborators.

Warmest wishes for a joyous Holiday Season and a New Year of peace and prosperity!