KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jul 09 2012

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Beth Sholom by Frank Lloyd Wright

No, this isn’t kitchen-and-bath-related, but if you are inspired and invigorated by design of all kinds and are willing to travel, then you may want to visit Beth Sholom in Elkins Park, PA.

Completed in 1959, Beth Sholom, which means “house of peace,” was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is definitely worth the two-hour drive for those of you in the Tri-State area. Just be prepared to melt a little if you go during a heat wave, which is when I visited. The main sanctuary, where the ceilings are translucent to flood the space with light, reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit when I was there, according to the docent. But perspiration is a minor annoyance when you’re standing under a soaring ceiling pitched vaguely like a tent and surrounded by furnishings in desert-inspired colors, both of which are references to Jewish places of worship of old. The shape of the building takes its cues from the idea that being in the synagogue is like being in God’s hands, and the stained-glass pendant fixture replaces an initial concept to outfit the synagogue completely with stained glass.

The tour is definitely a must-do and includes a fascinating video about the building’s history and the relationship between Rabbi Mortimer J. Cohen and Wright. The former seemed a singular man possessed of vision and drive, which I imagine are necessary in a client to secure funding throughout the six years required to complete it and to persist despite obstacles and detractors. Per Cohen’s dream, the building is stunningly individual, befitting its label of an “American synagogue,” and in 2007 was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Thanks to Eric Corey Freed, of organicArchitect, from whom I first learned about Beth Sholom when I interviewed him for a Profile piece that appeared in the November 2010 issue of K+BB. In his interview, he described the experience of attending a service there when he was 10 years old: “I’m sitting in the seat and as birds are flying overhead, their shadows are passing along the floor, because it’s a translucent palace. It was the most beautiful thing you could imagine.”

For information on visiting Beth Sholom, click here. To learn more about its history, click here.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012 at 1:01 PM and is filed under Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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