New addition and renovation to Breuers 1961 Saint John's Abbey in Minnesota
The original Abbey Church complex by Marcel Breuer was constructed in the 1950’s. The project includes a new interior chapel, the renovation of the Chapter House, along with a new 9,200 sq ft two-level lobby addition.
A number of functional programming, circulation, and accessibility issues needed to be resolved within the small addition and rigid existing concrete structure. The addition creates a new accessible entry and connection to the Upper Church and new restrooms, an art gallery, bride’s room, groom’s room and a staging area for catering. The new stair uses lattice-like steel railings to bring light to the lower level of the addition.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel renovation reconfigures a space adjacent to the main Abbey Church that had originally been designed as an ordinary office space with a primary view into an adjacent courtyard. The challenge was to design a new chapel for devotional prayer and connect it directly to the church. The chapel space is focused on a modern re-interpretation of the 14th century reredos wall (an ornamental panel) that holds the tabernacle. Designed to shield the view of an existing window, the wall diffuses natural light into the space.
To connect the new chapel to the main church, two simple openings were made in the existing concrete wall – one for the sanctuary lamp and one for the entrance. Platinum leaf is used on the ceiling to distribute light and echo Breuer’s discreet use of precious metals in the Abbey Church.