Since 2017 Teva Hesse of 4D Studio Architects has been the lead designer for the new synagogue for the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation which is nearing final completion! On the afternoon of June 16th 2023 Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi of the UK, officially opened the Synagogue and the adjoining social and dining facilities. The new synagogue is the central feature of the new Brighton and Hove Jewish Community (BNJC). The synagogue is a communal space for learning and prayer, intimate and modest, in keeping with the concept of ‘Shul’, which is a word borrowed from Yiddish deriving from the German ‘schule’ or school.
The synagogue materials are simple, repetitive and carefully detailed to show that ‘ordinary’ materials and forms can embellish what would otherwise be a functional box. Off-the-shelf circular skylights filter daylight into the synagogue through a suspended diagonal lattice of birch plywood. The ceiling diffuses the light from above into subtle patterns and gives the space a warm glow. The eastern wall recedes in a series of shallow recesses, which become more ornate and ‘precious’ as one moves towards the centre where the Ark containing the Torah scrolls is placed.
As the new synagogue is the smallest building on the BNJC site facing a busy public courtyard, we developed the idea of an architectural screen that would provide a degree of privacy and solar shading as well as ‘elevate’ the design of the synagogue into something unique. The screen consists of extruded clay tubes stacked in a hexagonal pattern. Hexagonal tiling is a means of stacking circular tubes in three dimensions that allows the greatest transparency for passage of daylight to the inside of the synagogue. The hexagonal honeycomb pattern also creates a distinctive geometric feature: the white mortar around each tube forms a subtle ‘Star of David’ pattern.
What in theory is a simple design solution required a great deal of engineering to make the 6m x 12m wall withstand the coastal climate. The geometry of the wall was completely drawn in 3D to resolve the geometric interfaces with the diagonal stainless steel support structure. The tubes are glazed in three different shades of Sapphire blue to create subtle colour variations in the wall. The tubes are in the process of being laid in an exacting process and will be complete in the 4Q 2023.