Archive for January, 2010

Congregation Beth Israel

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Congregation Beth Israel is one of the oldest congregations in Western Washington. It has served the Jewish community of Bellingham and the surrounding Northwest region since established in 1908. The congregation purchased a 14 acre site along what will become a major arterial road connecting new
residential areas. Sustainable and Green design driven by regional and environmental concerns, along with traditional synagogue requirements, history and economics have had major influences on the design.

Congregation Adath B’nai Israel

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Temple Adath B’nai Israel, the only Synagogue in Evansville, IN, is a new facility for a congregation of 200 families. The site is adjacent to an elevated Interstate Highway, with a nearby cloverleaf providing prominent views from above and as one progresses through the gradual sweep of the exit ramp. The highly visible roof thus becomes a focal point of the design. The heavily wooded backdrop for the site is an abandoned railroad right of way which screens the property from the neighboring church and provides a protected sylvan setting for use of the outdoor terrace, and seasonally varied views from the primary worship, educational and fellowship spaces.

The program for this congregation is unique in that large overflow Holiday crowds are not a factor. This use pattern allows the sanctuary and social hall to function separately at all time and affords an opportunity to express these primary spaces as discrete elements within the overall composition. The resulting design is a simple but powerful collection of pure forms grounded in a tilting plane. The cylinder of the sanctuary is capped by an abstracted crown symbolizing the majesty of G-d [and also hides the mechanical equipment], the cube of the library-chapel, and the rectangular prism of the social hall, all intersect with a simple wedge-shaped bar of the base building.

The dominant design feature of the Sanctuary is a stepped pattern of twelve pairs of windows, which progress around the drum from a low point at the entry doors, to a high point behind the Bimah. Each pair of windows is aligned under a matching pair of half-round clerestory windows above. Only at the Bimah do these vertically aligned windows actually unite to form a pair of tablets etched with the Ten Commandments, revealing the unambiguously Jewish character of the space.

The building is an essay in balancing the particular with the universal. The use of local brick, Indiana limestone, and a standing seam roof tie the building to its specific locale in time and space, while the pure geometric forms give the structure a timeless quality. The sanctuary, in particular, expresses the purity of the axis mundi tempered by an asymmetrical exposed king post structural system which locates the center of the room over the Bimah rather than the geometric center of the circle, and supports an heirloom Ner Tamid [eternal light] which has traveled with the congregation, along with its stained glass windows, as it has moved from one home to another, growing and changing over the years yet still connecting with its history, a significant Jewish theme.

Temple Sinai of Bergen County

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Addition and full renovation of a 35,000 sf, 600 family congregation on a very tight site that straddled two municipalities with major zoning and bulk restrictions. The existing sanctuary had a courtroom-like character and the school was overcrowded and poorly configured.

Taking advantage of the sloping site with entries on 2 different levels, a new southern edged addition was integrated with and built into the sloping front yard creating an appropriate entry for the lower, parking and drop-off level and added needed classrooms and storage.

The entire eastern sanctuary wall was demolished and transformed into a translucent light infused element. A multi-leveled Bimah allowed graceful handicapped accessibility and an intimate connection to the congregation. The ceiling with its special ceiling expanding Mogen David light fixture motif, provide a strong visual bonding with the adjacent social spaces, providing a strong connection social during the High Holy Days. The new front elevation and major exposure was envisioned as an abstracted menorah and new public image, announcing the positive growth and future to all members and passersbys.

B’nai Keshet

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

A new 10,000sf sanctuary, social hall and foyer, that are connected to an existing residence that is on the National Historic Register. Utilizing the historic residence for Educational Programs the new addition was delicately connected to the historic structure with the new residentially scaled addition. Strong neighborhood concerns, resulted in a design that was appropriate in scale and character on the exterior and expansive yet intimate on the interior. The Ark was created, crafted and installed by the Nakashima studio. Light monitors create a constant variety and restful patterns of natural light while glowing during evening services.

Hevreh Of Southern Berkshire

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

“Hevreh” means community and the design of a new building is inevitably an expression of that community. The Jewish population in Great Barrington has traditionally been a summer phenomenon, multiplying with the seasonal attractions and Hevreh served its fluctuating congregation by borrowing facilities from others. After 20 years of “wandering” the congregation felt that, the time had come for a permanent home. The challenge was to build a temple that draws worshippers closer together, that invites spiritual reflection and encourages the community aspirations of the congregation, and provides needed space for its growing educational program as well as for community events.

Two-thirds of an 11 acre site is protected wetlands and the building and parking were forced close to the road. With breath-taking views to the back of the property the design oriented all public and meeting spaces toward the back and configured the utilitarian spaces to be visually inviting but functionally buffering.

Picture a 19th century shul in a close-knit eastern European village. The carpentry tradition and timber resources of the Berkshire are similar, but the cold winters have inspired a rambling, connected architecture that strings barns and woodsheds, to porches, to the house. These two inspirations have come together at Hevreh. Cedar is the dominant material both inside and out and the central space that serve as both sanctuary and social space needed to be inspirational as well as flexible and utilitarian.

The sanctuary is a deliberate departure from the enclosed and sheltered synagogues of Eastern Europe. It is welcoming, airy and filled with the light. The room seats 125 for weekly services with remarkable intimacy and can expand to seat 275 for special occasions. Large windows along two walls of the sanctuary can be removed each Fall for the High Holy Days services and nearly 600 additional seats set up on the terrace beneath a heated or cooled custom tent-like extension. At the eastern corner of this multi-purpose space the Torahs are sheltered in a semi-circulary wood and glass Ark that was designed by internationally known glass-artist, Tom Patti, whose studio is nearby.

Beth El Temple

Monday, January 18th, 2010

A large Conservative Congregation in a 50 year old structure that was dated and inflexible. Many of today’s programmatic needs were not being met including an intimate sanctuary, flexible space for new programs and events, energy and system inadequacies and handicapped and other code deficiencies. 40,000 sf of new and renovated space is Master Planned in a multi-phase project to be implemented as priorities and funding allow. Based on these economic and functional priorities the Phases of this project were flipped 180 degrees creating an updated sanctuary, sanctuary expansion, enlarged public foyer and multi-purpose space in the First Phase of construction.

Congregation Micah

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The challenge was to build a temple that draws worshippers closer together, that invites spiritual reflection and encourages the communitarian aspiration of the congregants. The congregation needed more space and wished to make a distinctive statement of contemporary Judaism in a community with more than 300 churches but only 3 synagogues.

The building is set well back on its 38 acre site closer to the hills beyond and to establish the natural setting, preserve 24 acres of protected wetlands and to orchestrate the approach sequence through the trees and flowering meadow. Drawing inspiration from the walls of Jerusalem, yellow-gold brick, are laid in patterns that resemble the large cut stone and varied patterns of the ancient Temple’s Western Wall; worshippers are drawn through the entry and into a traditionally inspired Jewish community.

Picture a 19th century shtetl, a close-knit eastern European village. The streets are narrow, the sounds of life everywhere; a small chapel tight between the shops; the voices of children raised in prayer serenade. The rabbi’s study is across the street, a quiet retreat, lined with books and Judaic art. At the corner, across from the synagogue, is a library filled with children’s storybooks, Jewish recipes from distant lands, Bibles and biographies. To the right a smaller street extends to the edge of town with little schools along the way, each an active cluster of classrooms where children learn to draw and sing and read.

The sanctuary is a deliberate departure from the enclosed and sheltered synagogues of the shtetl. It is welcoming, airy and filled with light of the open countryside. The room seats 300 in just 7 rows, with remarkable intimacy. Panels along the sanctuary’s curved rear wall open to accommodate 1200 for the High Holy Days. At the center the Torahs are sheltered in a cylindrical Ark that is the heart of the building, forming the base for the 7 steel trusses that spring to support the roof like the branches of a menorah or the tree of life. The curved copper doors of the Ark, are inscribed with Exodus 20, which includes the Ten Commandments.

E. Arthur Davenport House Restoration

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The Davenport House is an early Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style design built in 1901. The street facade and roof form were significantly altered and an original front terrace removed in 1931. The interior has undergone modest changes with each new owner, yet the original fabric of the interior is intact, covered by layers of new finishes. Harding Partners is restoring the house with maximum fidelity to the original 1901 design and to receive a LEED Silver rating. The original facade condition and roof are being reconstructed, including a front terrace off the living room and prairie style landscaping, to achieve the essential Frank Lloyd Wright quality of melding the interior and exterior space. The interior woodwork, cabinetry and sand-textured plaster are being restored to the original finish materials and color scheme. The kitchen and bathroom are being gutted and renovated to visually fit the period and the house, while functioning as contemporary rooms. The furnishings will be reproductions of Wright-designed pieces and custom area rugs patterned to echo the geometric art glass windows, creating a characteristically integrated whole.

Temple Torat Yisreal

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

A 300 family congregation is moving from an older building in a suburban Providence location to a growing Jewish community. Sustainable, Green and Environmental issues informed the design process. A LEAF, emulating one of the 6 fruit trees of the biblical land of Israel is the literal Green Machine. Energy is gathered from the South facing solar roof panels and transmitted through the stem which also serves to circulate all the mechanical systems, and incorporates the Ark as the religious core and conduit. The beautiful and protected wetlands to the East provided an exceptional sanctuary background enhancing this natural theme.

Temple Israel

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

The second largest Reform Congregation with over 3,000 members had a 100,000 sf facility with a large Sanctuary that was very cold, austere and focused on a non-inspirational Bimah. A historic Ark, reminiscent of the travelling Ark of the Tabernacle, that was carried from an earlier building, was the only element worth preserving.

With some very simple ideas including introducing natural and artificial light and creating a niche for the historic Ark, the entire focus of the sanctuary was transformed into a moving, spiritual background. The addition of the Tessarae art of Efram Weitzman,