The growing congregation of Oakland's Temple Sinai needed to expand in a more cohesive way than they had before. After buying a number of lots surrounding their original historic synagogue, they collected contributions to build a new chapel, a preschool, classrooms, offices and a library. Mark Horton Architecture, in collaboration with Michael Harris Architecture, (who go by the moniker of MH2 when working together) designed and built a series of metal clad buildings to support the community's needs. As part of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” the congregation is seeking LEED certification for their temple addition.
The new addition is centered around a circulation spine that runs the length of the building behind the original temple and new facilities fronting 28th Street. This spine is composed of a mosaic stone tile, which is the same length and material as one of Judaism’s most sacred sites, the Western Wall in Jerusalem. From this spine the whole community can meet for casual conversation and then peel off to one of three new program areas: the chapel, the community living room, and the library. All of the new buildings wrapped in green-tinted zinc cladding to give the new facilities a decidedly modern aesthetic, especially compared to the historic temple on the corner.
A number of the architectural details were directly inspired by Jewish history and tradition. For instance, the chapel was inspired by the tallit, or prayer shawl, and enfolds the congregation in blanket of wood slats on the walls and ceiling which wrap in a continuous band. The text of the v’ahafta, a prayer central to Jewish practice, is inscribed on to the high windows in the chapel area and at night these white words stand out strongly against the sky. This lettering also acts like a window frit pattern, letting in daylight, but tempering it slightly to reduce solar heat gain.
The temple is part of the community at large and they wanted to ensure that their new buildings remained open and inviting to those on the street and also allow for views from inside as well as natural daylighting. Maintaining and encouraging the sense of community was an important goal, as well as reducing their environmental impact. To this end, the congregation set its sights for its place of worship on LEED certification, which they are currently registered and are awaiting final certification.
Images © Ethan Kaplan Photography / Mark Horton Architecture with Michael Harris Architecture