Divine Design - Design Bureau

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Divine Design

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Photos by Dana Sohm

For centuries, churches were the epitome of high design, yet somewhere along the way, their design began to elicit more yawns than hallelujahs. Architects John Sparano and Anne Mooney of Sparano + Mooney Architecture stage a design revival in their vibrant and modern look for St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in West Jordan, Utah.

DB: The inside looks more stylish than a traditional church people may be used to seeing—did the parish have a clear direction they wanted for the design?
Anne Mooney: The client came to the project with no preconceived ideas of what they wanted. Our approach to the design of sacred space is one where the architecture seeks to reinforce the teachings of the denomination through its forms and gestures. The client’s beliefs are the constant; the architecture that expresses them is the variable. 

DB: So how did this particular parish influence the materials you used?
John Sparano: The materials emerged from our translation of ideas embodied in the patron saint of the parish, Saint Joseph the Worker, into the  architecture. He is believed to have been a carpenter and has evolved into the patron saint of workers, craftsmen, and laborers. The board-formed concrete drum of the sanctuary, flat seam copper panels of the day chapel and lantern, as well as the western red cedar of the parish office and gathering space were all material choices made with the idea that the materials should embody a lasting impression of the hand of the craftsman.

DB: Tell us about the circular design—is it symbolic of anything?
JS: Through the design process for the sanctuary it became clear that a rounded form provided the ideal shape for gathering. The form also has a rich historical precedent in sacred architecture, from the Pantheon to the Tempietto in Rome.

DB: What was the response from the community—anyone saying this is too stylish for a church?
AM: We attended the Salt Lake City St. Patrick’s Day parade last year and were surprised to see that the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish had built a trailer-mounted, scale model float of their new church. Children from the parish were sitting and standing all over it as it passed, laughing and throwing candy to the crowds. We were left to wonder if this might not be the new gold standard for measuring the success of any church project: Do the users feel their new building is worthy of a float?

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