Herman Coliver Locus Architecture

Los Angeles, California

A windowless sanctuary, designed as a theater with raked seating and a high bema from which a prior generation of clergy preached, felt outmoded and inappropriate for a contemporary congregation longing for a stirring prayer space that challenged its community to reflect, connect and discover meaning.

In the renovation, clergy are positioned at the center amongst the egalitarian congregation. Light is brought into the space in three ways: from above, bathing the Torah table at the center; from behind the ark to make it glow; and at the periphery, defining layered valences of space. Above the congregation, a wood slat ceiling recalls Abraham’s Tent. Light shining through the central skylight, printed with a striped pattern of text, recalls a billowing prayer shawl.

Four portals into the sanctuary are reminiscent of the ark. Crossing these thresholds, congregants engage these transitional spaces as the Torah scrolls energize the ark. As one passes through them, one traverses from a liminal space to the sanctuary within — from the everyday to the sacred. The architect designed 54 etched glass panels, each a unique expression of the weekly Torah portions. They surround the congregation. The words and patterns in each express numerous ancient and contemporary commentaries.

Jury Comments

The jury appreciates the integration of light in the space, using it as an element of the architectural experience, not as an afterthought. The selection of the materials is well thought-out and judicial. The before-and-after images are really striking, revealing what was achieved.

Project Team Members

Herman Coliver Locus Architecture Team:
Principal-in-Charge: Steven Rajninger, AIA
Senior Project Manager: Melissa Garcia, LEED AP
Job Captain: Kalan Rutstein
Judaica Design: Steven Rajninger, Melissa Garcia, Kalan Rutstein, Negar Kolahi
Modeling: Kalan Rutstein, Peter Lin
Community Outreach: Susie Coliver, Steven Rajninger

Temple Beth Am Sanctuary Renovation Committee: Diane Shapiro, Chair; Janet Metson Urman, Chair; Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Rabbi Hillary Chorny, Sheryl Goldman E.D., Ronald Alberts, Stephanie Blatsos, Mayer Brenner, Judy Ross Bunnage, Mike Cohn, Susan Hetsroni, Paul Kalt, Mandy Lande, Virginia Maas, Avi Peretz, Wanda Peretz, Jana Lehman Richland, Robert Ring, Mark Samuel, Ron Tannenbaum, Marshall Temkin, Michal Vaakil, Mark Wolf

General Contractor: Del Amo Construction

Project Consultants

Parker Resnick, Structural Engineer
Design West Engineering, MEP Engineer
Architectural Lighting Design, Lighting Designer
Newson Brown Acoustics, Acoustical Engineer
Media Systems Design Group, Audio-Visual Consultant
Richard Barnes, Photography