Sisters of St. Martha Park

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Project Team

Parts Used

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Last year, in 2021, The Sisters of St. Martha opened the Bethany Centennial Garden. The new area aims to convey the historical and spiritual importance of where the Bethany Motherhouse formerly stood.

In 1921, the Sisters moved to a new Motherhouse, built on a hilltop outside of Antigonish with views of the town and county. The house was named “Bethany” in honour of Saint Martha, who served as the congregation’s patron saint.

The beautiful Bethany served as a humming hub of activity and prayer for 97 years until it was deconstructed in 2019.

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The Viridis Design Studio team, Tina Beers, Landscape Architect, and Chris Collins, were the Prime Consultants and design team on this project. Chris Collins from Viridis Design Studio shared his thoughts on this project:

Landscapes and gardens possess the power to create places of contemplation, and reflection, evoke memories and express histories and stories. The Bethany Centennial Garden has been created as a welcoming landscape rooted in place. The steeple, a significant architectural feature of the Motherhouse chapel salvaged from the demolition, has been given a prominent place in the Garden. Situated along the main axis and sight line, visible from all points in the Garden, the steeple now sits proudly on a base surrounded by a calm pool of water reflecting the steeple and the sky. Colour changing lighting of the steeple and the fountain emphasize the significance of this feature on the grounds.

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The Bethany Centennial Garden, created by Viridis Design Studio Ltd. and Dexter Construction, features a heritage walk commemorating significant milestones in the Congregation’s history, seating areas, wheelchair-accessible walking trails, and areas for meditation and contemplation.

The steeple previously perched atop the Bethany Chapel will serve as the centerpiece of the Bethany Centennial Garden. The garden included pieces of the Motherhouse foundation, seating areas, a reflecting pool, and a two-foot waterfall. The hope was that Bethany Centennial Garden would be a peaceful setting where “… we seek to deepen communion among ourselves and those we encounter,” Sr. Brendalee Boisvert, congregation leader, said in a news release.

The Collaboration

For the Sisters of St. Martha, the unique fountain in the Bethany Centennial Garden is a spiritual space. Crystal Fountains, Rob Mikula, Director of Creative Design, initially came up with three architectural concepts of the feature and lighting, one of which was further developed to meet their budget. Rob chose to use LNL302  linear lights to uplight the overflows and the steeple and color-changing LED040s to uplight the steeple. 

The challenge here was to generate water feature concepts that highlighted the historical feature, created a seating opportunity and a water expression that is appreciated from beyond the immediate area. The limited budget meant that we used creative solutions both aesthetically and technically. For instance, utilizing the steeple plinth to house operational infrastructure.

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The community came out as our Customer Success Manager, Wissam, was on-site commissioning and shared their excitement. The commissioning included ensuring that the lights and programming worked, and he got the special shows ready for the holidays. 

It is a beautiful site, and the vision to bring the old back to life gave the whole area a nice feel. The old historical monument and church have a new life. Community and neighbours came by as I worked, asked questions, and shared their excitement. A first for me onsite was having to climb up inside the steeple to get to the control room and lighting panel–different from any other site I have been at! This site has a purpose for the community in a different way than an interactive play deck, for instance. I loved being able to see the view of the entire town. It’s a special spot.

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