NER TAMID CHAPEL, SAN FRANCISCO

The Ner Tamid (eternal light) Synagogue required a small chapel for daily prayers. The chapel focus is the bimah, akin to an altar, where the Torah scrolls are held in a hovering wood ark, reminiscent of the Old Testament Ark that housed the Ten Commandment tablets. The ark hangs from a steel armature supported by anthropomorphic wood buttresses, evoking the men who carried the Ark through the desert in biblical times. Suspended above the bimah’s limestone floor, the ark is centered directly over a shallow depression filled with sand from Israel. 

 Figurative “men,” the wood buttresses, carry the ark on their shoulders across a figurative “desert,” sand brought from “The Holy Land” by synagogue members. This metaphor is completed by attention to daylight. The ark is backlit, frameless panels of sandblasted glass, creating a halo of glowing light symbolizing the “Schinah,” or spirit of God. With the neighborhood surroundings thus obscured, yet the ark still basking in abundant light, the figurative desert is further evoked.

This project was awarded an Interiors Award by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). AIA Minnesota honored it with a 2002 Divine Detail Award. The project has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and Architecture Minnesota magazines and two Bay Area exhibitions, “Small Firms, Great Projects” and “Best of the Bay Inside, 2000, 2001”.