Faith in Healing
Healing Three sisters on a mission have transformed the historic Norwegian Seamen’s Church in the Lower Garden District into a wellness center.
In November of 2021, the former Norwegian Seamen’s Church reopened its doors as Spyre, a reimagined space for healing of a different sort. Sisters Diana Fisher, Deborah Peters and Kendall Winingder revived the church as a holistic wellness center housing various mental health and therapy practitioners and body workers, a fitness center, spa offerings, meditation and hydrotherapy facility, gathering place and more. The founders honored the building’s Scandinavian roots in the design and atmosphere of the physical space, infusing it with natural elements, working with Bell Butler Design & Architecture on the design and Ryan Gootee General Contractors for the renovation.
The concept of Spyre was inspired by Fisher, who as a breast cancer survivor said she benefited from integrative oncology, alternative therapies and spiritual practices. The sisters recently shared more about this unique to New Orleans center for healing.
What were your goals for the overall design concept?
Kendall Winingder: The overall goal was to create a space that fosters healing. It was more about a feel than aligning with a particular style. Nearly everyone who steps through the doors at Spyre comments on how good the space feels. That is the greatest compliment.
What were the biggest design challenges?
Winingder: Our biggest challenges became some of our favorite aspects of the design. The building was classified as a landmark, which meant most of the exterior would have to remain the same. We had to redirect plans for a grand entrance to accommodate the existing, more understated foyer. Now we don’t have a grand entrance per se, rather an entrance experience that’s almost more valuable, because you are not quite sure what to expect when entering. It feels like you’re stepping into a little hidden paradise. Having to work with existing layouts as not to disturb the historic building was definitely the greatest challenge, but we are very pleased with where we landed. Even our name resulted from honoring the church steeple that still graces the front of the building. By putting a twist on the spelling of ‘spire,’ we want to community to look to us as a modern beacon of wellbeing.
What are the standout features?
Winingder: The chapel is a standout. [It] houses a stunning chandelier created by Australian designer Christopher Boots. We wanted to celebrate the true beauty of the chapel by stripping it down to its original form and let lighting showcase its beautiful simplicity. A halo of light covered in beautiful crystals radiates positive, loving energy, perfectly complementing the space. And in efforts to install ambient lighting thoughtfully throughout, we garnered help from a lighting professional so everything from the natural color and chevron pattern of the wood to the dramatic arc of the ceiling feels peaceful and expansive.
How do you offer something different or set yourselves apart from entities doing similar work in New Orleans?
Diana Fisher: We created Spyre because there wasn’t anything similar in New Orleans. We actually haven’t found anything similar in the United States, where various health providers share a space with a community-based, cutting-edge health and fitness center. (While) many health venues are designed around one doctrine or health philosophy, Spyre gives everyone the opportunity to explore various approaches to see what works best for their personalized health goals.
How do you promote a positive work atmosphere?
Fisher: We promote a positive work environment by supporting the emotional well-being and physical health of [our therapist tenants] and their guests. Each leased office comes with a membership to the health center which includes a gym, pool, exercise classes, yoga, meditation, infrared sauna and dry float. The architecture and interior design at Spyre is both uplifting and calming. Our tenants enjoy the benefits of collaboration and community building around common goals of bringing healthy changes to citizens of New Orleans.
How would you describe your company’s mission and its core audience?
Deborah Peters: We offer a space for healing, at any level, big or small, and encourage exploration into one’s own health journey to discover what might work best for them.
What are your biggest challenges?
Peters: Our biggest challenge is trying to get people to explore something new and perhaps unfamiliar and to view the body as a whole, integrated system.
What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months?
Fisher: In the next 12 months we hope to grow our outreach to include many different populations in New Orleans. We will continue to offer a wide variety of classes and retreats that appeal to different ages, abilities and health concerns. As our membership grows, so will our ability to offer scholarships and free programming. In the next 12 months we will become more widely known as a place where anyone can find support in addressing the many ways possible to become a healthier person.
Date of building
The building is circa-1968, but the history of the Norwegian Seaman Church predates 1906. The physical space came later.
Style of building’s architecture
The building was constructed as a Norwegian Seamen’s Church. The style reflects Scandinavian influence.
13,000 square feet
Move in date
July 1, 2021