A powerful transformation

04 Jun 2010

Former electrical substation undergoes an unlikely conversion into a synagogue

The 1922-founded building was designed for the electricity company 'Elektrizitätswerk Südwest AG'. Its use as a voltage transformer station and later as a laboratory for street illumination and has nothing in common with the today's aim of use. The building was bought by a Jewish society in 2004 and is now being rebuilt and provided to the Jewish-orthodox society 'Chabad Lubawitsch' for the next 99 years.

The cladding remains mostly the way it is, simply a representative entrance will be established to the side of the street. The primal transformer hall is altered into an orthodox synagogue and the basement is set up for a traditional Jewish ritual bath, the Mikwe. Seminar rooms, a library, a room for children's service, a café and a festival room with attached kosher kitchen offer room for miscellaneous religious and cultural events of the community members and their visitors from all around the world.

The entrance hall is connected upstream to the prayer area and impresses by its furniture, composed of organic solitaires, as independent lounge. The wall between synagogue and foyer was disguised with monolithic sandstone plates similarly of the Jerusalem Wailing Wall.

The synagogue, a high hall, in itself resting, forms the mentally and the cultural center of the plant. The hall appears compactly in spite of its horizontal fluent structures, certainly by the dark, room-high, wooden paneling. In their composition appears the three storey hall in balance, whose roof structure is carried by a single pillar, asymmetrically standing. Functional elements, like the shrine for the Thora roles and the gallery in the upper floor, separately available for women, grows out of the wall. The gently curved gallery is arranged in a distance to the round pillar and the walls to avoid that the room is divided in horizontal areas.

The synagogue hall is lighted on the one hand over a oval roof-light, which symbolises the spiritual connection between the believers and the divine instance and on the other hand they become illuminated over the into walls inserted narrow lights, which makes an at the same time warm and solemn tendency in the hall and stands in dialogue to the dark wood of the walnut and the deep red of the upholstered seats.

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