Salt Lake City-based design practice Sparano + Mooney Architecture designed a church for West Valley City, Utah that’s strikingly modern yet sensitive to the existing site context. Located near Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, the world’s deepest open pit mine and a major employer in the area, the church pays homage to the working class community’s mining and construction past with its material palette. The award-winning, LEED Silver-targeted church — named Saint Joseph the Worker Church after the patron saint of laborers — was completed on a budget of $4.5 million and spans 23,000 square feet.

In order to comfortably seat 800 people within a reasonably close distance to the altar, Sparano + Mooney Architecture designed Saint Joseph the Worker Church in a circular form with rounded and thick board-formed concrete walls. In addition to the new 800-seat church, the 10-acre site also includes an administrative building with offices and meeting rooms, indoor and outdoor community gathering and fellowship spaces, a large walled courtyard centered on a water feature and ample landscaping. After the architects salvaged parts of the original, now-demolished church that was built in 1965, they added new elements of steel, copper and handcrafted timber to reference the area’s mining and construction past.

“Drawing from this lineage, a palette of materials was selected that express the transformation of the raw material by the worker, revealing the craft and method of construction,” the architects explained.

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“These materials include textural walls of board-formed concrete, constructed in the traditional method of stacking rough sawn lumber; a rainscreen of clear milled cedar; vertical grain fir boards and timbers used to create the altar reredos and interior of the Day Chapel; flat seam copper panels form the cladding for the Day Chapel and skylight structure over the altar; and glazing components requiring a highly crafted assembly of laminated glazing with color inter-layers, acid etched glazing, and clear glass insulated units with mullion-less corners,” the firm said. “The design harkens back to the mining history of the early parish, and details ordinary materials to become extraordinary.”

+ Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Images by Dana Sohm, Jeremy Bittermann and Sparano + Mooney Architecture