Avant-garde religious site in L.A.’s Koreatown wins architectural award

The team behind Audrey Irmas Pavilion—designed as a gathering space complementing the Wilshire Boulevard Temple—has won an award for this new monument in L.A., which stands apart from the historical temple with its contrasting architectural form yet pays deference to it.

The award is the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Los Angeles’s 2022 Building Team of the Year. The award is shared by the project team led by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), and Gruen Associates as architects. Some of the other collaborators involved were Arup as the structure, MEP, facades, fire and life safety consultant; Theatre DNA as performance space consultants; Studio-MLA as the landscape designer; L’Observatoire International as the lighting designer; Rhyton Engineering; vertical transportation consultant Syska Hennessy Group; and MATT Construction as the general contractor.

The Pavilion, spanning 5110 m2 (55,000 sf), grounds itself on the basic box shape, consisting of three distinct gathering spaces expressed as voids punctured through the building—a main event space (large), a chapel and terrace (medium), and a sunken garden (small). The three spaces are interlocked and stacked atop another to establish vantage points in and out of each space. Within each space are a series of openings, filtering in light and framing views of the temple and the historic school, reorienting visitors to the complex and beyond.

At the ground level, the main event space echoes the Temple dome by lowering the arc and extruding it north across the site to connect Wilshire Boulevard to the school courtyard. In its full length, the vaulted, column-free expanse has the capacity to host diverse programs such as banquets, markets, conventions, performances, and art events. An oculus provides a view through the void to the dome of the historic Temple.

On the second level is a more intimate chapel and outdoor terrace. The trapezoidal room and terrace face west, framing the arched stained-glass windows of the temple. A third void is a sunken garden that connects smaller meeting rooms on the third floor to the rooftop event space with expansive views of L.A., the Hollywood sign, and the mountains to the north. Together, the voids establish a diverse collection of spaces for multiple purposes—from sermons and studies, to b’nai and b’not mitzvah and concerts, to work and relaxation.

The facade draws from the geometries of the temple’s dome interior. A single hexagon unit with a rectangular window is rotated to reflect the program within and aggregated to create a distinct pattern. The 1230 glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels enhance the building’s volumetric character while adding a human-scaled texture that breaks down its mass, changing in tone, depending on the time of day and the orientation of the panels’ ridges. The tonality and materiality resonate with the textures of the existing temple and campus while enhancing interior the color throughout the Pavilion.

Rem Koolhaas, OMA partner, was also commissioned to design a mezuzah for each door frame within the Pavilion. The purpose of the mezuzah is to act as a constant reminder of God’s presence, identifying Jewish homes as places of kindness, The Torah, generosity, and peace. For their design, each individual letter atop each mezuzah called a shin, was meticulously developed, hand-cut, filed and polished before being adhered to the mezuzah crafted from aluminum foam and cast in colored resin. “I was both intrigued and challenged to design the mezuzahs for the doors within the Pavilion. It is an unexpected religious object having to answer explicit religious edicts, laws, and rules which made it totally fascinating for me and a very good lesson to have at some point in my life.” says Koolhaas.

“We assembled a constellation of spaces, distinct in form, scale, and aura—an extruded vault enveloped in wood establishes a multi-functional, central gathering space and connective spine. A trapezoidal void draws tones from the Temple dome and frames its arched, stained-glass windows, and a circular sunken garden provides an oasis and passage to a roof terrace overlooking L.A. Three interconnected voids make the solid form of the Pavilion strategically yet surprisingly porous, engaging the campus and the city. The Pavilion will support both old and new activities, values, and traditions to foster a renewed energy for gathering,” says OMA partner, Shohei Shigematsu.

“As the ideal host for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple community, the Audrey Irmas Pavilion provides gathering spaces that can engage both internally and externally. In relationship to its classical counterpart, the pavilion offers a dynamic dialogue, politely reclining from the Temple and leaning towards Wilshire Blvd to invite visitors in. A complex of interior and exterior spaces distributed over multiple levels connect campus to city and frame new perspectives of the existing temple,” says OMA associate, Jake Forster.


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