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ETERNAL LIGHT, LONDON
Tuesday 31 May 2011
A bespoke contemporary eternal light feature has been completed for the New North London Synagogue.
It is very rare that a spiritual brief drops on the desk of a designer. If then, the ambition is to interpret and synthesize in a contemporary way a key symbol of a religion that is 3000 years old, the task becomes a rather complex challenge.
The “NER TAMID” is a feature in all Synagogues of the world: it is the “Eternal Light” as Jewish symbol of worship that hangs in front of the Ark, the cabinet containing the Sacred Scrolls. Many other religions have similar features because of the easy association between physical light and spiritual enlightenment. In origin it was the light of one olive oil based flame: one energy source, simple and weak, but full of poetic charm. It was originally used to illuminate and highlight a sacred spot and always been charged with symbolic values.
The timelessness of the uncertain flame light has been translated (for this project) into a simple electronic source of energy: one small cluster of LEDs emits light while enclosed in a rigid grid of triangular thin rods hanging off an olive wood canopy. A loose reference to the seven-branched candelabrum of traditional Judaism (Menorah) informs the 7 x 7 matrix of the highly reflective rods that can appear solid or immaterial depending on the viewing point. Warm golden reflections multiply the electronic source, making it twinkle and flicker against the olive wood background. The glowing feature manages to have an intense but discrete visibility in the brightly lit prayer venue of the New North London Synagogue.
In this way the contemporary response to an ancestral light typology hopefully will still be acknowledged as an inspirational symbol of everlasting spirituality.