For the Audrey Irmas Pavilion at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Rabbi Steve Leder, senior rabbi of the Los Angeles synagogue, commissioned Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu to design a mezuzah to grace the doorways of the brand new 55,000-square-foot constructing, a cockeyed honeycomb caught between the historic temple and Brutalist St. Basil Church. As this was OMA’s first spiritual construction and first mezuzah, neither architect was notably accustomed to the ritual object: a reliclike enclosure for a small scroll inscribed with a prayer. They set about fabricating a design from coloured resin and aluminum foam, a cloth acquainted to the workplace and used to nice impact at Fondazione Prada in Milan.
Jewish customized dictates that mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) must be positioned at entryways and thresholds to honor a commandment from Deuteronomy: “Write the phrases of God on the gates and doorposts of your home.” Koolhaas and Shigematsu’s engagement with this somewhat architectural little bit of Judaica suggests a venture steeped in intimacy with cultural practices. Consideration to the element, nevertheless, begets a broader urbanistic query: The place is the entrance door?
Embellished with 1,230 hexagonal panels and confetti-like slit home windows, the pavilion is designed to attract congregants and the general public from throughout the county to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Koreatown campus. Shigematsu describes it as a “machine for gathering,” but there’s no direct entrance from certainly one of Los Angeles’s main boulevards. A tall and substantial metal fence greets pedestrians. Whereas the southern facade pitches dramatically towards Wilshire—to the visitors, a bus cease, and unhoused Angelenos tucked into different doorways—the constructing is decidedly off-limits.
The standard architectural gestures of openness pose an inherent pressure for a spiritual establishment that goals for extensive welcome however, contemplating continued anti-Semitic violence, should institute safety protocols. A topping-off ceremony happened on the pavilion only a month after the 2018 mass taking pictures at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and in accordance with crime-report knowledge from the Metropolis of Los Angeles, hate crimes focusing on Jewish folks have doubled up to now three years.
Thresholds, then, are sophisticated. The roughly 350,000-square-foot campus concurrently presents providers and packages to the encompassing neighborhood whereas performing as a block-square enclave.
Guests not often enter by the ceremonial porch of the 1929 Byzantine Revival synagogue, which yawns open to the road for the annual Excessive Vacation providers. Extra seemingly, they pull into the parking storage on the rear of the block, get a cross from an attendant sporting a bulletproof vest beneath his polo shirt, after which discover their well beyond the daycare playground to the brand new construction—a variation on Wilshire Boulevard’s reverse-mullet typology: get together within the entrance, parking within the again.
After all, OMA’s edifice has an precise entrance door—a portal recessed into the western flank of the trapezoidal prism (a respite from the intense, palm-lined courtyard between the present and new buildings). And it has an oversize arched window (27 ft from flooring to apex) going through the road. OMA claims the form echoes the synagogue’s copper dome. If one have been feeling notably beneficiant, the window might be learn as a symbolic gateway peeking over the safety fence. Its twin on the other aspect seems onto an current inside courtyard.
The pavilion program is, in Shigematsu’s phrases, “not strictly spiritual.” Extra modish than the previous sanctuary, which with its elaborate dome is primarily used for providers, the brand new constructing assembles a grand occasion house, a chapel, a middle for ageing Angelenos, and a rooftop backyard. Stacked collectively, all are given their very own formal signifiers: arch, trapezoid, circle. From the surface, they manifest as “voids” within the facade—locations the place the hexagonal patterning of 6-foot-wide GFRC panels provides approach to geometric shadow.
Inside, every house takes on a startlingly distinct character: ruddy terrazzo beneath a sassandra wooden veneer vault for bar mitzvah events and Hollywood set-and-repeat soirees; inexperienced chairs, inexperienced expanded metallic mesh ceiling panels, and inexperienced SEFAR glass-laminated mesh home windows to echo the verdigris of the copper dome framed by floor-to-ceiling home windows. Such intense coloration in each the rosy ballroom and the viridian chapel immerses the customer, woos with saturation. A world away from the white partitions and polished pure woods that marked my very own experiences in Reform Judaism, it’s an strategy drawn extra from the pages of OMA’s portfolio than from any midrash.
Blue defines the sunken backyard on the highest flooring—ultramarine concrete made a bit powdery within the L.A. glare. The round “void” cuts by the roof to create a deep skylight for the chapel; from the chapel flooring to the backyard is a whopping 61 ft. That transfer additionally brings daylight into the places of work and group rooms of the Wallis Annenberg GenSpace, an initiative of the Annenberg Basis to carry wellness and exercise to L.A. seniors.
“The constructing creates a brand new vitality to the campus,” mentioned Shigematsu. Certainly, the chromatics dazzle. The structure makes a good-looking addition to Wilshire Boulevard’s rising meeting of notable constructions, like Renzo Piano’s spherical Academy Museum and Peter Zumthor’s blobby bridge for LACMA. And but, certain by the constraints of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple campus, it’s airtight by programmatic nature, if not by design: a treasured jewel field aching for a entrance door.
Location: Los Angeles
Government architect: Gruen Associates
Panorama architect: Studio-MLA
Structural/MEP/Facade Engineering: Arup
Civil Engineering: Rhyton Engineering
Normal Contractor: MATT Development
Lighting: L’Observatoire Worldwide
GFRC cladding: Stromberg
Facade contractor: Efficiency Contracting
Lamination glass: Goldray
Mesh interlayer: SEFAR
Glass Contractor: Metal Metropolis Glass Inc.
Mesh Ceiling: Lindner
Acoustic Veneer Panel: Navy Island
Mimi Zeiger is a Los Angeles–primarily based journalist, critic, and curator.