Emanuel Congregation Sanctuary Renovation

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Interior Renovation
Status: Complete, 2000
Photography: © Hedrich Blessing, Steve Hall
Selected Recognition: 2003 Divine Detail Award, American Institute of Architects Chicago. 2002 Interior Architecture Award American Institute of Architects Chicago

The design focus was a reinterpretation of the sanctuary due to the decreasing size and the changing needs and activities of the congregation. Flexibility and convertibility became significant design features. The higher, sloping rear of the existing, 45 year old auditorium-style sanctuary space was converted into a raised platform that forms the nucleus of the temple. The platform is surrounded by translucent panels hung between poles that support a ceiling canopy above. When drawn, the panels enclose an intimate sanctuary filled with movable seats, lecterns, and ritual objects that can be grouped in infinite configurations. When open, the panels flank the platform for its use as a stage for social events or for ritual during special services. The form of the new sanctuary-within-sanctuary is based on the transformable nature of the tent. Its components are light and translucent. Ceiling structures and their supports float above and beyond the platform. Traditional materials and new forms combine with existing artwork to reinforce the significance of the temple.