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Standing Out and Fitting In

Renovation and Expansion of Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art

Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Standing Out and Fitting In
By Michael Webb -

Salt Lake City is the product of an exodus. In 1847, polygamous Mormons trekked west across the US to escape persecution and founded a new settlement in the valley between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains. They built a temple and laid out a grid of wide city streets - an ambitious urban plan that would later become the state capital of Utah. The city sprawls across the valley but it remains a spectacular location where one can live in a wilderness setting and drive 15 minutes to a downtown office.

That was the draw for John Sparano and Anne Mooney, a husband-wife partnership who launched their architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1997 and then moved north. Though they still maintain an office in LA, Salt Lake City has become their principal field of activity. Working with a team of eight younger colleagues, they have designed a dozen houses, an arts building for a university campus, and a church within an easy reach of their studio. They have also built a woodsy boutique hotel in Alaska and are collaborating with international teams on other arts and cultural projects.

Complementary talents and shared values make Sparano + Mooney Architecture an unusually productive studio, one that intends to stay small but tackle larger projects in association with other firms. Sparano always knew he wanted to become an architect. At age 12, he formed a club with two school friends and sent away for house plans. He studied for his Master’s degree at the AA in London, moved to LA and took a job in the engineering department of the city’s transit authority, which gave him a good grounding in project management. Mooney came to architecture by chance, having previously intended to follow her father’s lead and become a pilot. She went to graduate school at Columbia, then switched to SCI-Arc, where one of her first professors was Eric Owen Moss.

Mooney is inspired by the modernist pioneers and by the restraint and...

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