Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

Sparano + Mooney creates sculptural Catholic chapel for Utah mining town

Sparano + Mooney Architecture has created a distinctive chapel in the American West that features copper siding, wooden walls and a large skylight that ushers in natural light.

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

The Chapel of the Mines is located in a working class neighbourhood in West Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. Used for daily worship, the chapel forms part of a new campus for the Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church.

The church is near the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, a primary employer in the area and one of the world's largest open pit mines. The campus replaces a modest church dating to the 1960s.

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

"Named for the patron saint of labourers, this parish church has a rich history and cultural lineage rooted in the practises of construction trades and craftspeople," said local studio Sparano + Mooney Architecture in a project description.

"Drawing from this lineage, a palette of materials was selected to express the transformation of the raw material by the worker, revealing the craft and method of construction."

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

Encompassing 470 square feet (44 square metres), the chapel is positioned along a curved plaza lined with concrete benches. The small building has a sculptural form, with the rear portion stretching toward the sky.

Facades are wrapped in custom, flat-lock copper panels that were supplied by a local fabricator. A wooden door set within a concrete box leads into the prayer space.

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

For the interior walls and ceiling, the team used vertical-grain, Douglas fir boards, which are elegantly stitched together using tongue-and-groove joints. The continuous wooden surface gives the room a warm yet streamlined appearance.

Running through the centre of the space is a polished concrete pathway flanked by wooden pews. The path arrives at a simple altar made of bent steel plates and grey and white marble. Hanging above are a crucifix and a trio of globe-shaped, glass pendants by Bocci.

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

The chapel's primary light source is a large, rectangular skylight above the altar, which not only brings in daylight but also directs the eye upward.

"Because of its small size, a specific design interest for the chapel was the desire to create a singular, upward focus evocative of spirituality," the team said.

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney

Other recent churches in the US include a white chapel in Texas by Studio 512, which rises to a sharp point, and a California chapel by Mark Cavagnero that features concrete walls and an abstracted steeple.

Photography is by Jeremy Bittermann.

More images and plans

Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney Floor Plan
Floor plan
Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney Plan
Chapel plan
Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney Cross Section
Long section
Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney Section
Cross section
Chapel of Mines by Sparano + Mooney Wall Study
Wall study