Thursday, August 7, 2008

Noteworthy Publication: article “Kabbalah and Architecture,” by Alexander Gorlin

New Publication: “Kabbalah and Architecture,” by Alexander Gorlin, in the new issue of Faith and Form (Vol. XLI: 2, pp 6-11), the journal of the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art & Architecture.

by Samuel D. Gruber

The author has designed several highly acclaimed synagogues, including North Shore Hebrew Academy on Long Island, NY (see my American Synagogues, 2003), where he interprets in form and light the Kabbalah’s account of the breaking of the vessels (Shevurat Hakelim). In this article he finds traces of Kabbalah in many strains of modern mysticism and occultism manifest in modern art and architecture. The widespread and continuing popularity of the studies of Gershon Scholem (who in the interwar period associated with many leading expressionist poets and artists), brought aspects of Kabbalah to architects in Europe and America.

Still to be determined, of course, is how deep an understanding these architects had, or when simple terms and general concepts sufficed to inspire architects, or to allow them to gloss their work. Or often, a single artist inspired by Kabbalah produced forms that in turn influenced others. Gorlin’s short essay, following Thomas Hubka’s recent writings of architecture and the Zohar (Resplendent Synagogue, Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community, Brandeis Univ. Press, 2003) offers new ways to consider the work of several Jewish artists and architects, and many others who defied the strictures of modern architecture as defined by the International Style. Gorlin mentions among others architect Louis Kahn and Daniel Liebskind and painter and sculptor Barnett Newman. Gorlin is no stranger to the work of Kahn and Liebskind. He is presently designing an addition to one of only two built synagogues by Kahn - Temple Beth El in Chappaqua, New York. and in 2004 he designed Daniel Leibskind's apartment.The Newman-Kabbalah connected has been explored by Matthew Baigell and others (see, for example, Baigell’s “Barnett Newman’s Stripe Paintings and Kaballah: A Jewish Take,” in Ellen Landau, ed. Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique (New Haven: Tale, 2005).

But Gorlin isn’t just looking at that past, he hopes to point the way to his fellow designers to of where they find new inspiration.

For more on the work Alexander Gorlin go to his firm's website at:

No comments: