Temple Emanuel
Livingston, New Jersey
Sanctuary Beautification Project
Ark and Bima Furnishings
Project Journal
March 11, 2011


Design Description and Notes for February 15 Conference Call

Michelle and I received the signed contract and deposit to begin the design work late last week.  We thank the committee for that. Ordinarily, once we receive the deposit, then we begin the design work.  This is our policy, which we strive hard not to violate. At the same time, once we are on a job, we are committed, full steam ahead, to the goal. So being aware of the very real constraints of time placed on us by the August installation deadline, we have actually been working on the concept for some weeks, because we want to come to an approval of the designs no later than the first of April. So, to that end, we have prepared a drawing to show to you, today, as a starting point for our discussions.

I’d like to briefly describe the concept to you and then we can have questions and comments.


Our goal here is to beautify this Jewish worship space
to work within this existing architectural framework to create a new ark and bima which will modernize and transform the sanctuary to enhance the worship experience., for the congregation, now, and in the future. To create something aesthetically pleasing and transcendent. We will accomplish this in the design, through the use of symmetry, i.e. the central focus, harmony (things that work together), action, the use of dynamic color and line,  and Jewish content.
In the execution of the work, we obtain the highest level of quality in craftsmanship by using our artist/collaborators, each of whom excel in their own medium. That is to say, our success will derive from our attention to simplicity, economy, functionality and quality.

The ark 10’ high x8’wide x2’ deep Oak veneer with bleached ash interior
Radius domed top, ceiling inside with recessed lighting
Inside, Full length fluorescents, at the sides provide addition interior lighting.
Rounded front corners at 3” radius
Flat face with pair of arched swinging doors
Doors have curved mullions to reflect the curved wall behind (in a wood to match the contrasting trim of the wall behind?)
The notch at the top center of the ark stands fro the imperfect condition of the world and reminds us that we are commanded to do tikun olam i.e. social action to repair and complete the creation.
The Raised text above the ark doors could say many appropriate things. In our case it derives from the Temple name, “emanual i.e. I am beside you” and translates, “God is in this place.” Even though the text comes from the story of Jacob’s dream, I still think it is appropriate, here, since it is the protective, reassuring God, of Jacob’s dream, that we call upon to help create a space conducive to worship.
And anyway, as we worked on this design, we began to think that the hanging sculpture symbolizing the Ten Commandments might have also been intended to stand for the angels, going up and down the ladders.
Twelve square perforations hold glass in colors to co-ordinate with the hanging sculpture, above and symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. That is to say, “God is in this place, The Torah is in this place and now, the symbol of the people Israel is also in this place.”
The interior of the ark is bleached ash, for optimal light reflectivity, with Torah cradles mounted on the rear wall.

The abstract design for the stained glass in the ark door openings is the focal point of the composition.
Diagonal lines, emanate outward encompassing the sidelights and drawing the entire bima into a single composition, greatly expanding the impact of the ark.
The dynamic diagonal, upward moving lines symbolize the idea of “aliya” i.e. going up. The expanding concentric circles are a metaphor for the spiritual plane of consciousness. The eye is drawn simultaneously inward and outward, reflecting the upward and downward movement of the hanging sculpture, above and in fact, meeting the hanging sculpture, at the same level of abstraction, so as to draw it, too, into the single composition. The palette of colors for the stained glass elements, including the Ner Tamid, derives from the colors of the hanging sculpture, further bringing the composition into harmony.

If we had to say… the idea behind the composition is , “Light comes out from the Torah.”
Light, in the form of energy, which is a wave and is a particle,
Light in the form of intelligence, to understand and to know the difference between right and wrong
Light like the presence of God, right beside you, like the wings of shechina opening up to comfort you.

The podium has exact dimensions, which we will forward to you, in a pdf. Its open in the back, with two shelves. It has a stowed box for shorter readers, rolling casters and a floor stop.
The podium face has an inlaid wood panel with twelve squares, rendered in twelve colored veneers, flanking an outline of the ark door shape, reproducing, in another medium, the design of the Ark, behind. The shape becomes a tablet of the law, when the ten Hebrew letters, standing for the Ten Commandments, are included, subtly conferring back to the ark doors an enhanced meaning through their shape.

In the execution of all the work, we are going to obtain the highest level of quality in craftsmanship in the stained glass, of course, which we do, in our own studio and by using our artist/collaborators, the glass blowers, furniture makers and wood inlay artists, each of whom excel in their own medium. That is to say, our success, in the fabrication, will derive from our attention to detail, to beauty, functionality and quality.

This is important in the design phase because it means that each element of the composition is intended to be a piece of art, in itself, that works in harmony with the other pieces of art to create a cohesive whole.

Things that are well made are pleasing. Things that work properly are satisfying and art always inspires. Peace and transcendence are obtainable in this place.


Copyright 2011 Plachte-Zuieback Art Glass