A unique solution to the spatial, programmatic and social needs of modern-day nuns, this innovative design redefines contemporary convent design. Ideologically and practically, the Sisters are constantly engaging the community, particularly in their work with the poor and disadvantaged. The building articulates this outward looking approach, and draws inspiration from their unwavering mission to help others and protect the earth.
Nestled into a sloping mountainside in Peterborough, ON, the site is located on the outskirts of the city, delineated by large hedgerows that conform to the existing agricultural grid. Responding to this rectilinear formality, the concept for this convent is to introduce curved surfaces that allow the landscape to flow through, over and around the building.
Care for the Earth is one of the Sisters’ guiding principles and therefore environmental responsibility is central to the design. Environmental features include: green roofs, reflective white roofs and low-e glazing, overhangs on southern façade, north facing clerestory windows, recycled insulation and energy-efficient windows, high-performance boilers, cooling tower and ground source heating and cooling, thermal massing, high-efficiency envelope, operable windows, local and VOC-free materials.
The spaces are not only functional and welcoming; they are efficiently laid-out, have low operating costs and minimal environmental footprint. Many of the Sisters are elderly and in poor health. Their business goal was always to build a facility that could eventually be sold as a retirement facility – a reliable economic plan as baby-boomers reach retirement age.
The project stands as a model of responsible building practices, contemporary faith-based architecture and a symbol of the Sister’s mission. It has ignited a new dialogue about the formal qualities of religious buildings, and in many ways, questions the physical expression of the relationship between cleric and community.