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Congregation Beth Am

San Diego, CA

This addition to the Congregation Beth Am campus provides all the necessary spaces to complement the congregation’s existing sanctuary. Included in this new facility is the Jewish Learning Center with classrooms, administrative spaces for the staff and Rabbis, a new Beit Midrash (a multi-purpose space that also functions as a second worship space), the youth center, and the pre-school with its outdoor play spaces. All this is housed in a single-story structure that sits adjacent to the sanctuary building.

The design arranges these spaces along a linear top-lit gallery that functions as a main street through the entire complex. Chance encounters and impromptu meetings are all accommodated in this connecting space, fostering community and engagement. Administrative spaces are grouped towards the existing parking lot at the front door to the complex. The pre-school is placed at the eastern end and is arranged around a large courtyard containing play spaces, a vegetable garden and storm water retention areas. Youth spaces and classrooms are placed at the western end. An entry courtyard penetrates the complex, crosses the gallery and makes an entry portal to the existing sanctuary lobby linking the worship space to all the new spaces.

The building expression is simple in form to defer to the sanctuary which is the center of the congregation’s experience and purpose. Plaster and cement board wings use colors complementary to the Sanctuary’s Jerusalem stone accents. Rainwater is collected in a celebratory manner in flow-through filtration planters at the base of the buildings. These planters act as a grounding plinth rooting the building to the site. The gallery is a syncopated rhythm of glass and recessed walls painted white to set it apart from the lower building forms. Inside the gallery is a calming sky blue with expressed lateral bracing frames. This space is non-conditioned and ventilated at its ends and through vents in its roof. 

Congregation Beth Am’s new complex extends Studio E Architect’s history of community making and supportive environments beyond housing and educational projects to religious communities. A place where engagement and connection are a natural and necessary component. 

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