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Monday, November 12, 2007

Park East Synagogue

Park East Synagogue in Pepper Pike, Ohio by Centerbrook Architects and Planners

The following text and images are courtesy Centerbrook Architects and Planners, for their design of the Park East Synagogue in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

This new synagogue incorporates a sanctuary, school, and library. It serves as a new East Campus for the expanding congregation of the renowned Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, designed by Eric Mendelsohn in 1950. Like the original Mendelsohn "mother-ship," it offers a community center for nearby congregants.

The building is a simple steel frame box clad in a stick and panel mosaic of copper. Three large organic shapes burst from the box - a Jerusalem stone sanctuary and two great copper canopies leading to a two-story lobby. These two entrances of equal importance - one for the school, the other for the sanctuary, library, and offices - bend towards each other in a gesture of welcome and blessing.

The lobby is the central spine of the building. The school wing is to the east, the library and offices are to the west, and the community center and sanctuary are the center hub. The sanctuary is surrounded inside and out by gently curving, monumental stone walls. The stone is coursed in large horizontal bands reminiscent of primordial construction of early Jerusalem temples. Chapel daylight comes indirectly from four edges, giving it a soft glow for quietude and solace.

Rising from the back of the bimah is the ark. From the ark rises a large curving canopy of interwoven wood beams. This reflects voices and music and also offers a sense of shelter to the congregation. Above the ark’s canopy is a higher arcing canopy of wood slats which drips glowing vertical lamps, like stars at night. The sanctuary’s wood canopies and ceilings recall both the original tented tabernacle and the framed structures of wooden Eastern European synagogues. All of this is intentionally ambiguous to further stimulate the congregants’ imagination, feelings, and visions.

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