ln the Torah, the core text of Judaism, serves as the literal and figurative inspiration for the design of the Lincoln Square Synagogue’s new home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Its façade features solid, masonry walls at each end that give way to an undulating opaque glass curtainwall in the center that recalls the form of an open Torah with its sacred parchment text wound on two wooden dowels.


Emile Dubuisson
David Sundberg/Esto


The double-laminated and insulated glass has a bronze-colored, pleated, sheer woven Trevira fabric encapsulated between its panels. Linear LEDs are positioned at the top and bottom of each panel and provide a diffuse line of light without revealing the fixture hardware. A white ceramic silk-screen dot pattern is then applied to the interior lite of the curtainwall, creating an additional layer of privacy for worshipers. The entire assembly begins the architectural and lighting dialogue and creates a luminous backdrop for the main sanctuary within.

Emile Dubuisson
David Sundberg/Esto


The sanctuary space itself is a circular room with in-the-round-style seating. The Torah Ark is set in front of the curtainwall and the Bimah—the podium from which the Torah is read—is in the center of the room. The rest of the sanctuary’s perimeter wall is lined with faceted acoustical panels broken by a soffit cove that conceals LED fixtures. These luminaires cast a soft spill of light onto the wall below continuing the wash of illumination around the entire room. Here, too, there is symbolic meaning; the shape of the space is meant to symbolize a tent, recalling the nomadic structures of the ancient Hebrews. The symbolism continues in the ceiling, dotted with 613 13/4"-diameter LED downlights, an abstract representation of a starry night sky in the desert, and a reference to the 613 mitzvot (commandments) outlined in the Torah. The geometry of the space—articulated walls and convex ceiling—creates a natural sound amplification, eliminating the need for speaker equipment during services.


Emile Dubuisson
Emile Dubuisson


Architectural motifs are carried through to the lobby as well. The lower band of the undulating glass ribbon wall from the building’s façade extends inside and becomes the north wall of the main lobby and sculptural stair at the entrance. The same linear LED fixture used for the curtainwall is installed here as well. The planar surface of the wood finish is highlighted by an LED covelight and the overall ceiling height is further emphasized by a T5 fluorescent uplight slot in the stone wall opposite.

Emile Dubuisson
Emile Dubuisson

In building a new place of worship for this congregation, the design team has created a contemplative space that respects the Judaic traditions in a completely contemporary setting that allows congregants to connect the present with the past. 


Details 

Project: Lincoln Square Synagogue, New York • Client: Lincoln Square Synagogue • Architect: CetraRuddy, New York • Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates, New York • Team Members: Suzan Tillotson, Ellen Sears, David Burya • Photographers: Emile Dubuisson, Studio Dubuisson; David Sundberg/Esto • Project Size: 52,000 square feet • Project Cost: Withheld • Lighting Cost: $900,000 • Watts per Square Foot: 1.3 • Code Compliance: ASHRAE 90.1-2007 • Manufacturers: Eaton’s io LED, Philips Lightolier, Starfire


Jury Comments

• A holistic design that references a story through light. • Different elements are combined to make a unified whole. • The lighting creates a tasteful, well-balanced, uplifting space. • The project will age well.