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SoHo Synagogue in New York by Dror Benshetrit
August 6th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Dror Benshetrit
The SoHo Synagogue is the community’s first ever synagogue and represents a fresh vision that translates the inspiration of Judaism to a new generation. With a forward thinking approach, Rabbi Dovi Scheiner along with his wife Esty, founders of SoHo Synagogue,built a religious platform that invites the community to fully integrate their religion within their modern lifestyle. Mindful of the open mindset of lower Manhattan’s Jewish population, The SoHo Synagogue seeks to reinvent the synagogue as a comfortable and enjoyable setting for personal growth and communal connection. We were humbled and honored when receiving the invitation and assignment to create a space in which the synagogue can embrace the traditions and its fundamental function within a contemporary, casual design setting. On Sunday June 12, a long and festive procession of supporters and congregants dressed in white walked the neighborhood together to cut the ribbon and open the door to their new synagogue. The synagogue will hold both social gatherings and religious services.
Dror plays with dual meanings through the overall artistic direction of the space and design details. The striped window of the place that once used to be a fashion boutique keeps the privacy of the new house of prayer. The stripes evoke both the lines of the tallit shawl that men wear for praying, as well as the image of a bar code.
The congregant enters a long narrowing reception area with a sculptural reception desk that consists of two white and solid QuaDror feet contrasting with a transparent glass top. Across the signature piece is a wall installation with appearing bricks painted in different shades of blue and featuring the names of the donors who allowed the synagogue to be. Converging lines on the ceiling contribute to the narrowing perspective of the corridor leading the path to the prayers room. The ceiling design conveys again a duality of meaning, juxtaposing traditions with modern aesthetic; the fitted light bulbs and the dark lines drawn on the ceiling can resemble of a menorah or the modern grid of a subway map.
Passed the corridor, the visitor arrives at the top of a steel-and-glass stairwell opening the view and the path to the sleek, under-leveled sanctuary. Immediately noticeable is the Torah arc in the center with its unusual round shape made of overlapping circles that slide open and close, each of which holds one of the triangles that form the star of David when slide-closed on top of one another. Fashion designer Yigal Azrouel selected and wrapped the fabric on the Torah arc. This interpretation of the religious element conducts Dror’s consistent sensitivity for transformation and motion in objects of our living environments. In the prayers room, Dror decided to leave pipes exposed and accentuate the brick walls. He uses 7 aligned brick-squares found within the wall foundation when working on the space to create a fresco representing a menorah. The intention was to embrace and integrate the history and the nature of the architecture shell that was going to host the religious space. Dror combined elegant design elements such as his iconicpiece, the Peacock chair, with the raw, industrial feel of the sanctuary room.
Art pieces on the wall consist of a series of panels, which the congregant can un-hang and fold into chairs or coffee tables. The design artist interpreted his own idea of the prayer benches with comfortable beige low-couches. The peaceful sanctuary atmosphere, traditionally created by the light of the stained-glass windows, is here created with single retro-style Edison bulbs. Circular bookcases store prayer books alongside wineglasses. “I intended for the SoHo Synagogue to be an inspiring, creative shelter to bring a new light onto the religious traditions,” says Dror.
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Tags: New York