Sunday, October 10, 2010

Germany: A Dramatic and Entirely New Synagogue Form for Historic Mainz

Above: Old (New) Synagogue of Mainz, destoryed on Kristallnacht (from postcard).
Below: Architect Manuel Herz with model of new synagogue (photo: AFP).

Germany: A Dramatic and Entirely New Synagogue Form for Historic Mainz

Last month Germany opened its newest - and most unusual synagogue building. The Mainz Jewish community is one of Germany's most historic - dating back at least to dynamic intellectual heyday in the Middle Ages. Now the small community is the most contemporary and cutting edge - at least architecturally. As Gavriel Rosenfeld explains in an article in The Forward, architect Manuel Herz's design is something entirely new. It derives not from any traditional (Jewish or otherwise) building vocabulary, but from the very vocabulary and calligraphy of Hebrew prayer. This is in stark contrast to other new synagogues in Germany - notable the monumental synagogue in Munich that recalls the architecture of the Jerusalem Temple in its stark and simply geometry and massing. Formally, the new Mainz synagogue is obviously inspired by the architecture of Daniel Libeskind (with whom Herz studied), most notably at his museums of Osnabruck and Berlin. From what I can tell from photos, the synagogue combines the drama of the Berlin Jewish Museum with the intimacy of the Nussbaum Museum in Osnabruck (which is now being expanded - so what the future holds is still unknown).

For photos click here.

How the New Synagogue in Mainz Has Its Cake and Eats It Too

by Gavriel Rosenfeld

The construction of a new synagogue is always an occasion for celebration, so it was with particular pomp that the Rhineland city of Mainz recently dedicated its new synagogue and Jewish community center. The dedication ceremonies, held September 3, featured an array of German politicians, including German President Christian Wulff. Many of them blessed the new building and underscored its symbolic significance. Yet, while the synagogue received its share of blessings, it also gave physical expression to them in its architectural form. Designed by the German-Jewish architect Manuel Herz, Mainz’s striking new synagogue complex traces its inspiration back to the third “blessing” in the Amidah — the Kedusha. The connection between the word and the synagogue’s appearance is not immediately obvious. But Herz’s drawings for the building reveal that its sawtooth form partly derives from the jagged pattern produced by the word’s five Hebrew letters: kuf, daled, vav, shin and hay.

Read the entire article here.

You can also read more about the synagogue and Mainz here.

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