Beth El / Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects

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Architects: Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects
Location: La Jolla, CA,
Client: Congregation Beth Sholom
Project team: Stanley Saitowitz, John Winder, Michael Luke, Charles Shin, Benny Ho
Structural Engineering: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Mechanical, Electrical, Lighting & Plumbing Engineering: Randall Lamb Associates
Landscaping: David Reed Landscape Architects
General Contractor: DPR Construction Inc.
Project year: 2000
Photographs: Rien van Rijthoven

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The menorah is the emanation of light, the representation of the unchanging and unified divine world. This object inspires the image for the buildings for Congregation Beth El. The plan optimizes the difficult topography with an entry turnaround and parking platform in the valley. An elevator rises from this level to a court formed between the existing structures—social hall, offices, and school building—and the new sanctuary; arcades added to the facades of the existing buildings unify the complex. The court is the focus, the connective space for the gathering of the congregation. All activities lead from this arrival court. The lobby of the sanctuary, on the east side of the court, is two stories with a glass roof above.

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Traditional elements are interpreted in the language of the design: a tzedakah box, four slots for placing money embedded in a column, clocks to announce service times, kippah and tallit receptacles, a sink for hand-washing, and bookshelves. The sanctuary itself is a box of light. Paired thick concrete columns alternate with voids and glass to create the image of the menorah. On the glass columns the Five Books of Tehillim (psalms) are inscribed, providing a rich calligraphic tapestry of meaning. The interior evokes warmth and security with colors described by Moses for the Tabernacle: gold, purple, maroon, and blue. The furniture is dark walnut, and stars of light hang from the ceiling. Two floating galleries provide additional seating. In the middle of the court, a chuppah of four poles holds a Star of David. This is the center for wedding ceremonies and outdoor services.

Cite: "Beth El / Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects" 25 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=32779>

15 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    When is was a child i used to go to the synagogue with my father and grandfather, but only to play outside with the other kids who had to go – to this one, I’ll go anytime! such a cool design for this place… the exterior reminds me of classic Doric temples.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I thought the same as soon as I saw those exterior pictures in perspective.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with taking a few pointers from Kahn.

      Excelent building.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I wouldn’t say they’re hideous – but I do believe they don’t really achieve what the architects could have wanted. The exterior is better. Although they do use a symmetric scheme for an asymmetric access situation.

      A good photo would have been the one from the base of the hill.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    a great concrete exterior. it reminded me of Kanh’s building at the first look. I do agree with orange that the exterior would be better if they remove the star. Interior doesn’t seem to be that good, though.

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