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Temple Sinai in Oakland, California by Mark Horton / Architecture with Michael Harris Architecture
September 9th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Mark Horton / Architecture with Michael Harris Architecture
Temple Sinai, the oldest and largest East Bay Jewish synagogue, has grown around their 1918 landmarked sanctuary with new buildings in a way that has disassociated all of their different activities. The Temple’s new building program included a new chapel, classrooms, a preschool, administrative offices, and a library, but most importantly the temple wanted a new design to organize these disparate elements into a place where their congregants could feel a greater sense of community where people could meet each other in casual spaces for spontaneous conversation.
A circulation spine, which runs the length of the building and joins all programmatic elements, has a wall of mosaic stone tile of the same length and material as one of Judaism’s most sacred sites, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This is the space where all parts of the temple community meet and to which are attached three jewel-like building objects wrapped in green-tinted zinc cladding: the chapel, the community living room, and the library.
Other architectural details and spaces draw heavily on Jewish history and tradition as well; the chapel inspired by the tallit, or prayer shawl, enfolds worshippers in wood slat walls and ceiling (forming a continuous band) recalling the wooden shuls, the pre-war synagogues of eastern Europe. By day one can look through the text of the v’ahafta, a prayer central to Jewish practice, on the high band of windows to see sky; by night the prayer’s white letters stand out against the dark. Along the stone mosaic wall are weathered copper plaques with quotes from Jewish scholars and poets.
Temple Sinai is very much a part of the larger community around it, and to that end they wanted openness where views into the buildings and out to the City of Oakland were maintained. This sense of community goes further with the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” and to this end LEED certification was an important goal.
Collaborative between the offices of Mark Horton / Architecture with Michael Harris Architecture
Temple Sinai was a collaborative effort between the offices of Michael Harris and Mark Horton, under the MH2 moniker. While running independent offices, Michael Harris and Mark Horton have shared space, ideas about architecture, and support for over 20 years. Throughout this time period, the two principals, as well as their offices, have relied on one another to exchange ideas, solicit critiques and feedback on projects, and support each other’s endeavors; while the offices are distinct and separate firms, they share the common goal of creating great architecture for their clients.
While good architecture can be the product of a singular vision, a collaboration of ideas and approaches, as was the case with Temple Sinai, can produce great results. Michael Harris and Mark Horton’s complementary approaches to the design process resulted in a whole which was greater than the sum of its parts for Temple Sinai. In this case the client was the beneficiary of two principals, and two architectural firms, who contributed a much broader spectrum of ideas, capabilities, and design sensibilities to the project than would have occurred if only one were involved.
Michael Harris and Mark Horton have worked together in the past, most notably on the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center and Housing project, and the two firms look forward to the opportunity to work together again.
MICHAEL HARRIS ARCHITECTURE : FIRM DESCRIPTION
MH-Architecture strives to create architecture that is engaging both mentally and physically, realizing built forms that are informed by the thought, care, and sensibilities of the architect and client. Our work should delight and enrich while satisfying functional requirements, successful projects are those that empower the user and enhance their relationship with the environment.
Architecture is organization; by the study of a project’s physical and human context and the understanding its program and function -concepts of order develop which generate an architectural structure- a rational for relating a building to place, parts to a whole and parts to one another. Through this process, the design gains a legibility and purpose, rooting it to its physical and social environment. Space can function both as shelter from nature and by its inherent distinction a means to appreciate it. Likewise architecture can be a place of community and social interaction or of refuge. It delineates public from private, man made from nature and sacred from profane.
To build is a collaboration in many ways: with the earth, as ultimately architecture is a physical reality, expressed by the qualities of materials, the play of light, and the creation of form and among people; as architecture is the physical manifestation of human relationships. Successful projects are the result of constructive interaction. Technology allows the manipulation of nature to construct architecture; which includes the requirement that we build so that the materials and energy we use do not deplete or poison our planet. Architecture should communicate a human intent behind the built form, allowing one to appreciate the work at both a civic and intimate scale.
Each project is an integration of past experience and precedent with a new set of circumstances and requirements. The combination of the general and specific, tradition and invention produce architectural solutions that are both universal and unique.
MARK HORTON / ARCHITECTURE : FIRM DESCRIPTION
MH/A begins each project with the understanding that the questions which should be asked are more important than knowing the presumed final answers. The solutions will come at the end of a true design process, but only if the correct questions are developed at the start.
MH/A’s integration of design aesthetics into the functional solution of the program at hand is of utmost importance. In the end, this direction becomes the primary goal of a process the firm is centered around engaging in the construction of architecture. To aspire to something different would be to resign the process to the idea that construction alone would suffice and that the need to engage an architect on the project would not be required.
As is evident in the portfolio of both built and proposed work, design is primary to the office. MH/A truly believes that lives can be positively affected by design, and that the task of architecture is to have this affect upon people.
Because MH/A remains an “emerging” design firm, the projects which are proposed to the office, and are most often undertaken, tend to be projects of unusual scope and constrained budgets. Working within these restrictions becomes a normal task for the office as well as a set of tools used to generate design. MH/A’s ability to navigate the intangible world of design simultaneous with the real-world condition of budget has become a trait many past clients would attest to. As is often repeated in the process of projects of this type, the assumption on the part of MH/A is that the world is not an “either-or” universe, but rather a “both-and”, and that one of the tasks of the architect is to discover the point in space where disparate arcs of issues actually coincide.
Founded in 1987, Mark Horton / Architecture is a design firm based in San Francisco, California. With a primary focus on architectural design, projects have also been undertaken which deal with planning, interiors, and design aspects related to the architectural process.
Mark Horton / Architecture is a licensed architectural firm in the States of California and New York.