Spirit Vessel - CODAworx

Spirit Vessel


Client: Gustavus Adolphus College

Location: St Peter, MN, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $20,000

Project Team


Greg Mueller

Mueller Studio

Landscape Architect

Perkins Will Architects Minneapolis, Minnesota

Industry Resource

Vetter Stone Company


Boats and ships reflect a universal symbol for transporting the soul. This symbolism speaks to the significance of the Gustavus Memorial Columbarium. Spirit Vessel is constructed from recovered Cypress, the “eternal wood” described by Native Americans because of its natural oils which resist insects and decay. The Vessel’s positive / negative layering references the transition from physical to spiritual and is suspended by 4 guardians of weathering steel whose form draws influence from the curving hull structure of naval architecture. The hull contours acknowledge the organic line quality Perkins Will Landscape Architecture implemented into the Columbarium design.


Gustavus Adolphus College's vision for an on campus columbarium began with an architectural design that would play off Christ Chapel’s East Side “New Testament” doors designed by the late sculptor Paul Granlund. Walking out the East Doors, one encounters a second Granlund art work, Luna Moth; a sculpture that speaks to resurrection and transformation. The project goal was to use the symbolism of the Granlund sculpture as a visual anchor for leading one into the columbarium space. The columbarium is composed of 12" x 12" Vetter Kasota Stone niches that hold funerary urns for college alumni. The wall of niches sits quietly into the hillside and as one exits the sacred space, the viewer encounters the newly installed sculpture, Spirit Vessel, completed by Granlund's former apprentice, Greg Mueller. Mueller’s goal was to complement both the Granlund work above and the columbarium design concepts of Minneapolis architecture firm Perkins Will. The integration of art and architecture brings a symbolic significance to the reflective space.


Several preliminary meetings between Gustavus Adolphus, Perkins Will, and Mueller Studio took place to discuss the design of a final resting place into college master plan. Topics included how 20-something college students will encounter this type of space as they walk from dorms to academic buildings. Also, what local materials and formal qualities of the new columbarium and sculpture will complement the 150 year old campus, the award winning Christ Chapel, and the pre-exisitng bronze sculptures of Paul Granlund. A back and forth idea exchange and thoughtful insight by all players, resulted in successful design solution.

Additional Information

Phase I of the Christ Chapel Memorial Columbarium and the installation of Spirit Vessel took place in the summer of 2014 and several of friends and alumni of the college have purchased niches. A Phase II wall of niches is currently on the boards, as the project continues to exceed expectations.