Location
  • Edmonton, AB
Client
  • Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
Completion
2010
Size
  • 7,600 sq m
  • 81,805 sq ft
Sustainability
  • LEED® certified
DIALOG Services
  • Architecture
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Interior Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Planning & Urban Design
  • Structural Engineering
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The Catholic Church thinks in hundreds of years, and this building is designed to endure. Seminarians spend up to nine years discerning their call to serve the church while living here. For these future priests, this special place nourishes and illuminates their faith, and strengthens their spiritual formation. The building incorporates rich overtones of centuries of history and Catholic principles, while remaining forward-thinking. This project was an opportunity to think about the relevancy of faith in the 21st century while respecting the history of Catholicism.
The tabernacle is that beating heart within the chapel that gives us life. Being anywhere in the seminary and looking through the windows, you know where your centre is, where your heart is.
Deacon Roger Niedzielski, former seminarian
St Joseph Seminary chapel front

Point of Interest 01

The Chapel

Curved forms embrace the altar and lead the eye up to the heavens. The gilded pillar of their faith, the tabernacle holding the Holy Eucharist, is the centerpiece of the chapel and an axis of orientation for the entire seminary. It is a place of spiritual formation.

St Joseph Seminary courtyard dusk

Point of Interest 02

The Courtyard

A walled garden extends the chapel outward to engage nature. It is a quiet outdoor space in the middle of an active urban environment. It is a place of human formation. Gardens throughout the site are places for the seminarians to reflect, to breath in life, and to think about man’s place in the world and our relationship with this fragile and remarkable planet.

St Joseph Seminary exterior corner

Point of Interest 03

Connected to Community

The building has a sense of permanence in its design, yet remains open and connected to the outside world, where the people are that these future priests will be connecting with. Lounge spaces in the private dormitory allow views into the river valley and Edmonton city skyline. Seminarians can look beyond the building and towards the world they will be serving as priests.

St Joseph Seminary interior hall

Point of Interest 04

Triptych Form

There is a recurring theme of thirds in the building, reflecting the sets of 3s in many religions—in this case, the father, the son, and the Holy spirit. There are three intentional pieces of the building. The chapel is the most prominent and public space that celebrates the Holy Eucharist. The Refectory includes community spaces shared with the public. The Private Dormitory is where the seminarians and formation team reside. The triptych form arises from early Christian art, and was the standard format for altar paintings from the Middle Ages. 

St Joseph Seminary chapel doors

Point of Interest 05

Entering the Chapel

The remarkable doors to the chapel were cast in bronze by local craftsman and tell the story of Jesus and the fisherman as relayed in the Gospel of John. The centre doors are glass to provide sightlines to the tabernacle at all times. The gilded pillar of their faith, the tabernacle holding the Holy Eucharist, is the centerpiece of the chapel and an axis of orientation for the entire seminary.

St Joseph Seminary chapel back

Point of Interest 06

Enlightening

Fourteen stained glass windows made in France in the 1950s were carefully restored and transferred from the seminary's previous location. The artistic windows gracefully paint jewel-toned light across the chapel walls. Leaving the chapel is as momentous as entering. The seven steps of priesthood are depicted in the panels grouped together above the chapel's doors.

St Joseph Seminary chapel concrete pour

Point of Interest 07

Between These Walls

The understated white walls of the chapel provide a canvas for the stained glass windows to paint their light on. The structure was created entirely of cast-in-place exposed concrete. The chalk-white concrete was cast in one single, complex pour planned collaboratively between designers and architects over 18 months. The walls are 450mm thick, 11m high, and have a visually exposed area of over 700m². The result is a visual, structural and acoustic sanctuary worthy of this sacred space.

St Joseph Seminary structural arches

Point of Interest 08

Strengthening

Traditional forms of church architecture—arches, buttresses, and side aisles—are reinterpreted with modern materials, especially structural steel, and play a vital role in the overall design. Peaked gothic arches uphold the structure around the chapel and frame each stained glass window.

St Joseph Seminary exterior materials

Point of Interest 09

Enduring Materials

The exterior material finishes draw from the character of the site and from St. Joseph's Basilica, the flagship of the Edmonton Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The combination of stone, brick, metal, and glass provide a quiet, elegant palette. The composition of the materials expresses the three major elements in the seminary: the chapel, the community spaces, and the residence. Brick is laid in a one-third stagger, following the tripartite theme. Tyndal stone is laid in the same pattern as on the Basilica.

St Joseph Seminary chapel linen walls

Point of Interest 10

Symbolism Throughout

Opportunities to symbolize the Catholic faith were seized throughout the building. The chapel's south wall has a recessed panel that shelters art. In this area, concrete forms were lined with linen to give texture to the wall. Linen represents the Shroud of Turin, the cloth used to wrap Jesus of Nazareth's crucified body.

Evoke DIALOG | St. Joseph Seminary

How does faith take physical form? Follow a seminarian through his day at St. Joseph Seminary.

St Joseph Seminary exterior elevation

Awards

2011 Award of Excellence, Canadian Consulting Engineers

2015 Award of Excellence in Masonry Design, Alberta Masonry Design Awards

2011 Award of Excellence in Concrete Design, American Concrete Institute (ACI) - Alberta Chapter

2011 Lighting Design Excellence Award, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

2011 Design Award, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute

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