This synagogue’s building committee asked project architect Brad Hartman to create a new worship space that better reflects their smaller congregation. Hartman listened to the group’s needs and also considered the synagogue’s location along a major thoroughfare. “The old worship space we demolished was on Polk Boulevard,” he says, “so we had to create something that faced the street, indicated this was a synagogue, and filled in the empty space from the old chapel.”
The solution came in the form of a courtyard extending between the new worship space and a grassy lawn edging the street. A smaller courtyard was added outside offices for the rabbi and cantor. Screening both spaces are 5-foot-wide by 10-foot-tall glass screens.
“We had always talked about preserving some of the geometric patterns from the old chapel and referencing them in whatever we designed,” Hartman says. The Star of David pattern is printed with ceramic pigment on a Mylar layer that’s sandwiched between the double-paned tempered glass. A white pattern on transparent glass indicates the more public space. For the private courtyard, the design team opted for a clear pattern cut into an opaque white background. Further differentiating the two are the words printed on each one. “There’s a prayer on the opaque panels that’s very common and appropriate for this space,” Hartman clarifies. “The clear glass panel in the other courtyard has phrases about people getting together and recognizable words to engage the public.”
On Site The screens face due east, an important direction in Judaism, so glass was the ideal material to capture that light. It also worked out to be the least expensive option.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Des Moines, IA.