KOL EMETH SYNAGOGUE
Palo Alto, California
Kol Emeth is a study in architecture’s ability to foster spiritual connection explored through the innovative use of materials and light. When it outgrew its original space, the synagogue commissioned FIELD to transform its property into an ever-evolving educational, social, and spiritual center that would embrace ecological responsibility and foster its community’s spiritual practice in everyday life. One of the world’s first LEED Platinum synagogues, Congregation Kol Emeth is a Zero Energy and Net Zero Water Building for irrigation, which creates a community identity that celebrates the beauty of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
The new complex consists of three independent structures that contain a sanctuary, classrooms, administrative offices, a multi-purpose room, and a garden. The airy, welcoming spaces easily flow between indoors and outdoors, connecting both physically and visually to the natural world. By incorporating simple but impactful features such as skylights, clerestory windows, and full-length sliding glass walls, FIELD created an elevated environment that provides optimal daylighting and temperature control in every space of the building.
The sanctuary, outdoor courtyard, and social hall are joined by an undulating canopy that filters natural light, creating a dynamic experience that changes with the movement of the sun. A delicate timber lattice wraps around the trio of buildings unifying its indoor and outdoor spaces. Using reclaimed timbers of native wood species, the lattice creates a sense of identity through the use of an artful building element used for sun and daylight control. Designed using alternating gradients of spacing, alignment, and rotation, the lattice imbues a centuries-old tradition with contemporary meaning, while passively controlling heat gain, and creating an elevated quality of natural light. The front façade of the building integrates a garden that functions as a living habitat showcasing native plants for the enjoyment of congregants and neighborhood residents alike.