Our Lady of the Snows Church
Our Lady of the Snows Church is located in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu, Labrador, on banks of Lake Melville overlooking the Mealy Mountains. The Church is designed to celebrate its unique site and role within the community, constructed by local tradespeople with locally available materials. The main objective was to create a structure that responded to the social needs of its traditional Indigenous community as much as it responded to the requirements of religious practice.
The design of the Church accommodates two scales of gatherings. The first is for large, less frequent events such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms, all of which are important to the Innu community. The second is for small, regular gatherings of the parish and band members. The community wished to have a non-hierarchical circular space for smaller gatherings incorporated into the more traditional hierarchical church forms. The design locates this round gathering space where the altar would have normally been placed. The intention being that the interior space would feel warm and inviting no matter what the occasion or size of group. While the building can house over 200 people it is also an ideal space for an intimate gathering of just a few people.
The building includes a large covered outdoor space where the community can gather before entering the building. This provides opportunity for outdoor activities to spill from inside the Church into the surrounding landscape. The Church is oriented so that the roof peak of the Apse points toward Lake Melville and the Mealy Mountains beyond.
The building had to celebrate and enhance its unique role within the community while being durable enough to thrive in its northern climate. The building also had to be easily constructed by local tradespeople with locally available materials. Wood is used throughout the building’s structure, and exterior and interior finishes. Detailing is kept simple, speaking to the Moravian style of traditional church buildings on the Labrador Coast.