Ark and reading table by Amy Reichert Architects
In late 2019 we were engaged to prepare preliminary plans for the renovation of a 1960 synagogue in Skokie Illinois. We were surprised and excited when at the start of the coronavirus pandemic the clients told us they received a substantial donation to renovate the sanctuary and bathrooms as the first phase of the synagogue renovation.
The renovated sanctuary will transform the existing space while maintaining the same number of seats. The seating will be reoriented toward the east, to follow the traditional Jewish direction of prayer towards Jerusalem. The new layout will bring the Chazan (the prayer leader) into the center of the room creating a sense of shared intimacy and community. It will also make the space accessible both visually and acoustically by improving the sightlines from every seat and upgrading the acoustics of the room.
The new sanctuary will be light-filled, with new clear windows in the east and clearstory windows on the west. A large triangular skylight will be installed, creating a central focal point above the Bemah – the reading and prayer platform. Together with our acoustic engineers, Aercoustics, we developed a secondary acoustic skylight that reflects the unplugged voice of the Chazan and fills the room with the sound of prayer and song. New sound locks will isolate the noise from the entry lobby, creating an intermediate space, in which the congregants can pause and transition to these sacred space.