Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, Canada by Acton Ostry Architects Inc.
April 15th, 2016 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Acton Ostry Architects Inc.
Since 1948, Congregation Beth Israel has been located in Vancouver on Oak Street, a busy arterial corridor and historical focal point for various congregations and institutions. No longer able to meet the needs of the congregation, the facility has been extensively renovated and expanded. The existing synagogue has been retained and re-purposed for social and educational activities to provide a buffer between Oak Street and a new house of worship.
The new facility is anchored by heavy masonry limestone walls and is surrounded by a series of interlinked courtyards. The new sanctuary, oriented east for worship towards Jerusalem, opens to and embraces the surrounding courtyards to connect the foyer, lobby, and gallery hall with the terraced entry court, celebration plaza, children’s garden, ceremonial courtyard, and formal and informal play space. These interlocking interior and exterior community spaces simultaneously separate and connect the inner sanctum with the community beyond, creating a transitional threshold between the sacred and the profane. An area along the eastern boundary of the site is reserved for the future development of a four-storey community office building.
The sanctuary can expand from a typical total of 400 seats to 1,400 during the High Holy Days by means of a large, movable walls located between the sanctuary, chapel and social hall. A warm palette of cherry wood paneling and Douglas-fir acoustic ceiling slats, further unites the sanctuary, chapel and social hall.
The main entry doors into the sanctuary are covered in raised words from biblical text while Hebrew lettering frit on interior glass configured in the image of the burning bush marks the chapel entry. Custom upholstered pews form concentric arcs around the raised Bimah creating an intimate setting for worship.
A massive concrete wall, clad in variegated slabs of Jerusalem stone, surrounds the focal point of the synagogue—the Ark and Holy Scriptures housed within. A narrow skylight bathes the wall and Ark in natural light. Above the Ark floats an ‘eternal light’ in the form of a three-dimensional Star of David.
The existing lower level has been transformed into flexible, multipurpose spaces: classrooms, seniors’ lounge, youth hall, conference centre, informal social space, administration offices, and meeting rooms. A new lobby at the lower level connects the underground parkade to the main level lobby. The uniform treatment of surfaces connects the levels with a board-formed concrete staircase, polished concrete aggregate floors, and the ethereal light from the warm hues of a colourful, glazed entry canopy.
Amongst the many environmental strategies implemented, the synagogue includes a connection for a pending District Energy System. The heating and domestic hot water systems are hydronic in order to facilitate the future connection under Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Strategy. Completed under ASHRAE 90.1 2007 requirements, the synagogue achieves an 18% reduction in energy use. In addition, the use of a mechanical heat recovery system in the administrative and classroom areas, 50% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, low emitting materials, and a low glazing area ratio of 25% also contribute to the building attaining a high level of high thermal performance and sustainability.
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Category: Office Building