Engage the Sacred

Temple Beth El Exterior

This project asked the students to deal with the human and the sprit; the secular and the sacred; the individual and the community; the specific and the universal; the self and the god.  In contemplating any religious space one must attempt to understand not one’s own place in the universe, but rather that of the other.  It is of the utmost importance that the designer goes outside him or herself to a more universal and collective point of view.  It was the student’s responsibility to move far beyond any sort of preconception toward a conception based in their findings and understandings of the project and people at hand.  

The site was the only existing Jewish temple in the Augusta area.  Translated, Temple Beth El means “house of God.”  And although it may look like a residence, the building was built as a temple in 1957.  The site itself lies at the end of a residential street, with close proximity to the Maine State Library and Maine State Capitol Building.

The small size of the existing temple places the community into very direct contact with one another on a regular basis; the limits of the existing architecture demand a closeness and flexibility that may at times be frustrating, but ensures that members remember they are part of a larger whole.  In this way, the seeming inadequacy of the building demands and creates community, and this could be lost in any new design.  The projects deemed “mort responsive” were shared with the entire congregation.