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  Consult   Design   Present

Centrum: Spiritual Center
Sacred Chapel in Toronto, Canada

On the steep slope of one of the edges of Toronto's ravine system a place for contemplation, introspection and shared spiritual expression was created. A place with no prescribed belief, where people of all walks of life can experience what is sacred to them in their own way. The broken concentric pattern of the chapel symbolizes fragmented time, and discontinuity in paths of life and thought, and binds us in shapes of endlessness and gathers symbolism from most religions and philosophies. A single axis in space that functions as a beacon from the highway and that is occupied by water, earth and light makes up the center, from which the solid concentric walls echo out into the landscape creating places between them and nature, processional paths and landscape.

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A sacred space is a space of reflection of the all. It is a space where humanity gathers to contemplate what they are, what they have achieved, what they have damaged and why. Both introspective and outrospective it should combine what is common between us andallow the contemplation of our existence.

The form of the building should guide and enable the gathering of people and create a disconnect with daily life, like stepping back from a painting to witness what you have created. I wanted the space to be engaging in different ways, over time, over seasons, though landscape, building and their relationship. A vertical space to connect what is above and below and reflecting the posture of mankind. A complex and ever changing place that is not always easy to comprehend or plan the path ahead, as an analogy to how we proceed through life.

Most religions, life philosophies and spiritual ideologies have a circle in their symbolism. It could be said that the circle is the one form that binds humanity both in the symbolic meaning (the endless line, expansion of life, eternality) as in the references to all that is important to us (marriage ring, iris of the eye, our planet, the moon and the sun, our source of life).

In our path through our life we often head towards an invisible goal, but rarely can we strive straight for it. We roam the periphery and slowly we come closer to a point that ever moves, and we will never arrive at. The chapel symbolizes this movement, the choices along our life paths, the interconnectedness of nature, light and water with ourselves. Buried into the earth both a single axis in space as a beacon that can never be reached but can form the focus of our existence. Embedded in the ravine edge it is a glowing beacon for drivers, a ceremonious place of celebration for marriages, a park for the neighborhood stroller, an event for night life party goers, and a very strong identity creator for the neighborhood, and for Toronto as a whole.

The chapel features a hanging chandelier organ for which Kegg Organ builders was consulted. It is a hollow design, allowing the chapel's central void to pass through the organ's center.

Sustainability & Ecology
The structure of the chapel consists for the most part of semi-cricular walls. While these function to create the spaces of the chapel, they double as anti-erosion walls that prevent furtile topsoil to wash away from the ravine edge, a problem that's been haunting the area for decades. This creates a new eco-region that can grow and develop using indigenous plants that otherwise would not stand a chance. All other materials of the building are made of local wood that has not had any toxins applied for treatment.

All heating, ventilation and water treatment is performed on-site and autonomous. This makes this one of the most sustainable chapels currently designed. These innovations also play a role in the symbolism and atmosphere of the site and building. For instance, rainwater is collected at the top of the ravine, and trickles down small channels that run alongside paths to merge the element in the symbolic procession. They also irrigate the ravine and make for an anti-erosion runoff system.

  Images & Movies
click to enlarge

Sacred Chapel Toronto Center Vizualisation
Chapel Centrum Space

Sacred Chapel Toronto Sections
Site Plan

Sacred Chapel Toronto Sections

Sacred Chapel Toronto Sections
Chapel Plan

Sacred Chapel Toronto Entry Vizualisation
Chapel Entry Platform

Sacred Chapel Toronto Center Vizualisation
Chapel in Different Seasons

Sacred Chapel Toronto Sections
Landscape Impressions

Sacred Chapel Toronto Sections
3D Plaster Print Models

Sacred Chapel Toronto Entry Vizualisation
Animated Section (QT 8mb)


The materials are chosen to show the passage of time, and to allow the building to receive new meaning as the world around it changes. The solid concrete walls will stand the test of time much longer than the wooden floors and radial walls, allowing the building to become an abstract memory in the landscape in a distant future. Much after the function of this building has ceased to exist, the white walls will keep the ravine from eroding, protecting its ecosphere, and stand as a testament for human gathering.


About Except
Except is a think + design tank for a sustainable society. We are sustainability consultants, architects and urban designers. We develop our designs using a systemic life-cycle approach, where we integrate the complex issues regarding systainability, society, economy and technology in inspiring designs built for the future. We also advise companies and governments how to approach policy and development similarly. Look here for more of our architecture and planning work, and here for consultancy and research.

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