manuel herz architect: jewish community center mainz
 
manuel herz architect: jewish community center mainz manuel herz architect: jewish community center mainz
oct 13, 2010

manuel herz architect: jewish community center mainz


swiss firm manuel herz architects has recently completed the jewish community center in mainz, germany.
‘qadushah’ is the hebrew word for raising or blessing, whose five characters in an abstracted way shape the silhouette of the building. with the pronouncing of a blessing, such as the one for wine or bread, a profane object is raised or exalted. it is lifted out of the quotidian and made into something special. it is this act of making special that the building, in its everyday use, should allow for.

 

the glazed ceramic facade points to a different layer of writing and scripture. similar to a process of inscription or carving a pattern of a rippled and three-dimensional surface is formed with ceramic tiles. this pattern is arranged in a concentric way around the windows thus creating a perspectival play of dimensionality. multiple perspectives with the windows being their vanishing points emerge within the building’s facade. this spatial quality is enhanced by the transparent green glazing of the ceramic tiles, which reflects the shifting light conditions of its surroundings and displays a wide array of hues and shades.


image © iwan baan (also main image)

 

 

urbanistically, the building follows the block structure prevalent in the neighborhood, arranging the building’s volume and its facades continuously along two main streets. by turning inward and orienting the synagogue towards the east two squares or courtyards are created: firstly, a public square in front of the main entrance which directs members, visitors and inhabitants towards the building while at the same time offering an open space to the neighborhood within a densely built-up urban fabric. secondly, an internal court for the community is created. this inner court gives the community space for their celebrations, for outside events or parties, and a space for kids to play.


image © iwan baan

 

 

the synagogue, situated just right from the entrance, is dominated by a horn-like space referring to the ‘shofar’, the ram’s horn. based on the prevented sacrifice of isaac by his father abraham, the shofar symbolizes the connection and the trust between mankind and the godly. the organization of a synagogue space is usually characterized by a certain inner contradiction: synagogues on the one hand want to be oriented spaces, directed towards east or jerusalem. on the other hand a centralized space is preferred, as the reading of the torah is performed from a central position in space, and from the midst of the community. this inherent contradiction is spatially resolved by the horn-like roof that distinctly orients the synagogue space towards the east, but bringing the (easterly = jerusalem) light right into the center of the space, falling exactly onto the position from where the bible is read.


construction

 

 

the interior surfaces of the synagogue are shaped by densely packed hebrew letters forming a mosaic-like relief, though creating no semantic content. in certain areas this density of letters is reduced, the letters rearranged, and text becomes readable. ‘piyutim’ (religious poetry) written by the rabbis of mainz from the middle ages are carved into the surfaces of the synagogue. in an almost ‘brechtian’ language these piyutim narrate the love for the torah in allusion to the ‘song of songs’ or the events around the destruction of the community during the first crusades, and reference the central role of mainz for judaism.


construction

 

 

furthermore, the jewish community center houses office spaces, school rooms and two apartments as well as the multipurpose space of the community. this multipurpose space represents the social and cultural heart of the community and will be used for internal purposes as well as for public events for and by the whole city.


construction


model


model


model

 

 

project info:

 

client: jewish community of mainz
architect: manuel herz architects
total floor area: 2,500 sqm
construction costs: approx. 6.0 million euro
completion: summer 2010

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