Synagogue LJG


Synagogue annex Community Centre Progressive Jewish Congregation of Amsterdam

Is true architecture the design of emptiness; the space between walls, floors and ceilings, between the materials themselves? Doesn’t the opposite lead inevitably to flamboyance and ostentation, to something that aspires to be more than it actually is?

The unstable relationship between Judaism and other religions and the dispersal of the Jewish diaspora have hindered the evolution of a recognized architectural style, this, in contrast to the strong and self-conscious personal Jewish identity.

Ceremonial traditions and rituals present few recognizable reference points in a synagogue’s physical expression. And while the identity of a church or a mosque is carved in stone, it is usually conspicuous in its absence with regard to synagogues. In this shul the classical parallel installation is reduced to only the heart with the shaft between Biema (pulpit) and Aron Hakodesj (cabinet with the Torah), pointing to the east, being Jerusalem. This traditional installation, which was used in the old synagogue for years, as well as the use of daylight are the main principles for the design. Moreover, the emptiness, visualization of the enigmatic Jewish identity (nesjomme) with its subtle and complex character, plays a significant role.

In this project, a neutral rectilinear ‘volume’ is formed through the optimal efficient use of both site and budget. The hollowing out of this mass, to form the ‘emptiness’ of the great Sjul, lends the building its identity. The sjul consists of a large central space with low extensions on either side under two-tiered balconies. The arrangement of these side spaces, the four balconies above them and the central void above the Biema suggest the Menora, the seven-armed chandelier. The Menora (the light) symbolises the burning bush discovered by Moses on Mount Sinai and is the oldest and most important symbol of Judaism. In the beginning God created light. Without light there is no life.

The building is located on a small island in the water that separates the Zuidelijke Wandelweg and the famous cemetery Zorgvlied. In about one and a half year, the buildings on the west side will be demolished to create a larger space for water and a newly constructed dock, perpendicular to the Zuidelijke Wandelweg.

The already constructed bridge to the island built leads to the entrance on the ground floor. Here are the spaces (which can be rented) and the large (party) room with kitchen and a Mikvah (purification bath). A wide staircase leads to the Azara (reception area) on the first floor. Linked to this is the boardroom / library. From the Azara visitors enter the great synagogue space through doors of gold leaf (as a gift to the LJG from all building partners), surrounded by old bricks from the former synagogue on the Jacob Soetendorpstraat. The second and third floor provide space for offices and classrooms and also give access to two balconies of the shul.

The tile pattern in the façade is set in a pattern of the Stars of David and is draped over the buildings like a garment. The smaller tiles on the north façade create a small text in Hebrew. The tiles are very similar to the matzo, the un-risen flat bread that in was hurriedly taken in the flight from Egypt.

Description from the architects


5 photos and 1 drawing

Building Activity

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