Belmont Abbey

Belmont Abbey College is a highly-rated Catholic liberal arts college located close to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Benedictine monks wanted a haven in the woods near the college residence halls so that students and visitors could have a quiet place in which to pray and reflect. This haven was to be named the St. Joseph Adoration Chapel.

The monks tasked the architect, William Monroe of WGM Design, with designing a structure that, both from the interior and exterior, looked and felt like it belonged in the forest. They also requested that the impact on the forest environment be kept as close to zero as possible. The latter was accomplished in large part by securing the building to piers. The former was realized by having the slender timber columns bifurcate into an orderly tangle of diagonal timber members which mimicked the trees of the forest.

Typically, glass panes in a timber structure are set in the exterior wall envelope. Not so here. The architect wanted the glass recessed between the timbers and since virtually every exterior plane is either glass or timber, the tolerance for racking was extremely tight. A series of intersecting turn-buckled stainless steel tie rods, as well as concealed engineered steel connectors at all timber intersections, allowed the structure to resist lateral forces. The timbers are all 6×6 in section and are kiln-dried Douglas fir, select structural grade, and free of heart center.

Owner

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, North Carolina

Architect

WGM Design, Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina

Engineer

D. Remy & Company, Hayesville, North Carolina