St. Joseph Seminary

How does faith take physical form?

Civic & Culture

The chapel is uplifting. It is the spiritual centre of the seminary and home of the Holy Eucharist. It is a focused, enclosed, spiritual spaceu2014a place of worship, communion, and celebration.

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.

Download PDF

Location
Edmonton, AB
Client
Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
Completion
2010
DIALOG Services

Architecture
Electrical Engineering
Interior Design
Landscape Architecture
Mechanical Engineering
Planning & Urban Design
Structural Engineering

Spiritual and Formative

The Seminary is a place where men come to discern whether or not they have a call from God to serve the church, and to prepare for priesthood.

Spiritual and Formative

The Seminary is a place where men come to discern whether or not they have a call from God to serve the church, and to prepare for priesthood.

Thinking in Centuries

The opportunity to design a seminary does not come along very often. They are meant to last for hundreds of years, reflecting centuries of history, intending to remain relevant for hundreds more.

Thinking in Centuries

The opportunity to design a seminary does not come along very often. They are meant to last for hundreds of years, reflecting centuries of history, intending to remain relevant for hundreds more.

Uplifting

The chapel is uplifting. It is the spiritual centre of the seminary and home of the Holy Eucharist. It is a focused, enclosed, spiritual space—a place of worship, communion, and celebration.

Uplifting

The chapel is uplifting. It is the spiritual centre of the seminary and home of the Holy Eucharist. It is a focused, enclosed, spiritual space—a place of worship, communion, and celebration.

Uplifting

The chapel is uplifting. It is the spiritual centre of the seminary and home of the Holy Eucharist. It is a focused, enclosed, spiritual space—a place of worship, communion, and celebration.

Grounded and Connected

Grounded in the tradition of religious architecture and at the same time open and inviting, the seminary is the embodiment of a contemporary institution with strong connections to the community.

Grounded and Connected

Grounded in the tradition of religious architecture and at the same time open and inviting, the seminary is the embodiment of a contemporary institution with strong connections to the community.

Grounded and Connected

Grounded in the tradition of religious architecture and at the same time open and inviting, the seminary is the embodiment of a contemporary institution with strong connections to the community.

The Team

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
Evoke DIALOG | St. Joseph Seminary | Edmonton, AB How does faith take physical form?
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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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 700mu00b2. The result is a visual, structural and acoustic sanctuary worthy of this sacred space.

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.

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.

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.