Elena Kalman, AIA, firmly believed that the religious building had to convey a spiritual message and not just serve as a physical structure. She designed the main portions of the façade containing the sanctuary as the shape of an open book, and the areas containing the building’s classrooms as separate pages extending from the book.
The building serves many functions over the course of a day and week. It is a house of prayer with seating for 180; a community center; a pre-school for 120 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years; an evening school providing religious education for adults; a facility for special needs children; and administration offices. Elena needed to design spaces, therefore, that could be used for different activities at different times. For example, a large hall with two commercial kitchens is used for community lunches on Saturdays after morning prayers; it is used for special lectures and banquets in the evenings and as an indoor play area for children during the week.
The interior of the building is organized along a tall spine, integrated with the entry lobby and splitting the functional areas of the school from the assembly areas. Natural light is a main element in the design of this building; each space receives light from the outdoors differently. For example, the nursery school classrooms have windows at various heights and configurations so that small children can ‘peek’ outside while the sanctuary has a forty-foot long narrow skylight running across the center of the room along the division between the men’s and women’s sections of seating.