Sunday, October 23, 2005

And While We're On the Subject of Gollus...

The Washington Post brings us the story of the U.S. Naval Academy's new Jewish house of worship, or, the chapel. Or a mini-gothic cathedral?

Read on:-

"You just can't compete with all of that, and today you couldn't afford the stone," says architect Joseph A. Boggs, whose Annapolis firm designed the new structure. Thus the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel, its precast concrete surfaces scored to emulate the rustication of Bancroft Hall's mighty granite blocks, takes a modest place in Flagg's monumental scheme.

There is, however, nothing modest about the chapel interior. It definitely is a look-at-me space. You walk into the building, glance to your right, and there it is -- irresistible.

The biggest surprise, I suppose, is simply how tall the chapel is. From the outside, the horizontal building looks as if it would house nothing more exciting than three floors of offices and maybe a couple of conference rooms. But the chapel, taking up one half of the front portion of the symmetrically divided structure, is all about verticality. Long and rather narrow in basic shape, the room rises 47 feet from Jerusalem stone floor to aluminum-leaf ceiling, and, because of the ways Boggs manipulated the space, it looks and feels a lot taller.

In a sense, it is like a miniature Gothic cathedral -- all light and uplift.

And don't forget the Jerusalem stone.

Oops, on a second reading, I missed this I think you should know:

Interestingly, before setting out to design a synagogue, Boggs, who is not Jewish, decided not to learn much about the history of synagogue architecture. "The traditions are so deep and go back so many millennia, once you start pulling back the layers you just can't get to the center, so I decided not to know anything. I just wanted to make the purest space possible, just kind of use my intuition to create a space for Jews to worship in."

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