A unique solution to the spatial, programmatic and social needs of modern-day nuns, this innovative design redefines contemporary convent design. Historically, convents were inward-facing, often focused around a central cloister - considered the physical and social heart of the residents’ life. This convent unreservedly rejects that model and presents a paradigm shift in formal convent typology.
Ideologically and practically, the Sisters are constantly engaging the community, in particular in their work with the poor and disadvantaged. The building articulates and embodies this outward looking approach, and draws inspiration from the Sisters’ unwavering mission to help others and protect the earth.
Nestled into a sloping mountainside on the outskirts of Peterborough, ON, the site is delineated by large hedgerows that conform to the existing agricultural grid. In response to this rectilinear formality, the formal concept for the convent is to introduce curved surfaces that allow the landscape to flow through, over and around the building.
Functionally and conceptually, the goals of the project were twofold: to build an inviting, accessible and efficient convent; to ensure ecological responsibility by reflecting the Sisters’ commitment to the earth and environment. The spaces of the motherhouse are not only functional and welcoming; they are efficiently laid-out, have low operating costs and minimal environmental footprint, and are focused on economic sustainability; the facilities of the building not only accommodate the needs of an aging congregation, but will also allow the building to be eventually repurposed as a retirement facility.
Care for the earth is one of the Sisters’ guiding principles and therefore environmental responsibility was central to the design. The LEED Gold project addresses macro and micro climate issues through features such as green and white roofs, extensive daylighting, a high-performance envelope, energy-efficient windows, high-performance boilers and geothermal heating and cooling. These measures not only reduce fossil-fuel dependency, but are combined with the use of local and VOC-free materials to ensure a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.