Beth Sholom Synagogue – Frank Lloyd Wright
Robert McCarter reckons the Beth Sholom Synagogue demonstrates Frank Lloyd Wright’s “unmatched capacity to translate ritual into space and experience.”
And he does it with the most prosaic materials – wired glass outside and blue-tinted polycarbonate sheet inside, resting on a triangular concrete ‘plinth’ on which rest the three structural steel girders on which the roof rests.
Entering, one rises to the main auditorium with either the sliver light of morning or the golden light of afternoon glowing through the canopy above, to find the three main floor surfaces sloping downhill to the bema, the main platform. Wright said he wanted to “create a kind of building that people, on entering it, will feel as if they are resting in the very hands of God.” (Wright himself clearly entertained more pacific notions of a God than the one described in the Torah.)
Responding to Wright’s preliminary drawings in 1954 Rabbi Mortimer Cohen said, “You have taken the supreme moment of Jewish history – the revelation of God to Israel through Moses at Mt Sinai, and you have translated that moment with all it signifies into a design of beauty and reverence. In a word, your building is Mt Sinai.”
And (says the building’s official site), since Mt. Sinai, at the time of the giving of the Law, was ablaze with light, the natural construction medium for the tower was glass: at night, the inner light of the Sanctuary shines through.