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Emanuel Congregation
Chicago
Ross Barney + Jankowski Inc.

A metaphorical canopy of clouds and sky provokes interest in this transformable space


© Steve Hall/ Hedrich Blessing

For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

The interior renovation of this 45-year-old synagogue was undertaken because the congregation wanted to change its fixed-seat, auditorium-style sanctuary into a more flexible area that could accommodate large crowds without feeling large when used by smaller groups. By reinterpreting the sanctuary space, the architect was able to create such flexibility. The total area of 12,000 square feet can be configured into a social hall, meeting room, and small sanctuary; or a large hall, social hall, and small sanctuary; or just one large sanctuary.

The higher, sloping rear of the original auditorium-style sanctuary space was converted into a raised platform that forms the nucleus of the temple. The platform is surrounded by translucent panels hung between poles that support a ceiling canopy above. When drawn, the panels enclose an intimate sanctuary filled with movable seats, lecterns, and ritual objects that can be grouped in infinite configurations. When open, the panels flank the platform for its use as a stage for social events or for ritual during special services.

The panels that enclose the smaller sanctuary symbolize the ancient "Tent of Meeting," where, according to Jewish tradition, the first services were conducted. The white clouds hanging from the ceiling enhance the feeling of being in a tent and also provide sound absorption. The form of the new sanctuary-within-a-sanctuary is based on the transformable nature of the tent. Its components are light and translucent. Ceiling structures and their supports float above and beyond the platform. Traditional materials and new forms combine with existing artwork to reinforce the significance of the temple.

Formal name of Project:
Emanuel Congregation

Location:
Chicago

Size:
12,000 sq ft

Cost:
$500,000

Owner:
Emanuel Congregation

Architect's firm:
Ross Barney + Jankowski Inc.
30 West Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
T: 312-332-3600
F: 312-332-3606

 

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