Reprinted from the October 17, 2012, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
by Bill Sanservino
Joshua Zinder Architecture & Design, at 20 Nassau Street, and Michael Landau Architects, at 10 Patton Avenue, have joined forces to form a specialty boutique firm. The new firm, Landau | Zinder, will focus on synagogues and other Judaic building projects “to serve the spiritual, aesthetic, and functional needs unique to Judaic institutions,” says Zinder. Both fi rms will also continue to operate their independent practices. Landau and Zinder will give a free talk on “Designing the Spiritual: Synagogue Design Historically and Into the Future,” on Wednesday, October 17, at noon at the Jewish Center of Princeton, 435 Nassau Street.
“Drawing on ideas from Isaiah’s house of prayer, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, and from the great wooden synagogues of Poland to the Princeton Jewish Center itself, Zinder and Landau will ask, what exactly makes a synagogue?” says a press release on the event. Zinder, who founded his firm in 2006 aft er working with Michael Graves & Associates, has been recognized for his Sukkah design concepts — structures used in the celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot. Landau has designed numerous synagogue projects since the mid-1970s, ranging from renovations to new facilities. He began his career by designing a synagogue for his architectural thesis.
According to the two architects, there are a number of issues and trends that are unique to synagogue design. They include: Considering the demographics. Shifting demographics and generational shifts are causing many congregations to consider downsizing or consolidation. “Creative design input can help a congregation make the best use of shared services and spaces,” say Landau and Zinder. These might include Hebrew schools, social and common spaces, and spaces for support and staff . Using flexible spaces. Congregations want their space to be used and not sit empty, say Zinder and Landau. “Flexibility is the most common word synagogue groups use when describing their goals. Most of them want the flexibility needed to accommodate
different groups and the needs during different times of the year such as high holidays, internal programs, or leasing opportunities to external groups.”
Expanding for education. Landau says that many congregations are expanding their educational focus from just nursery and religious schools to include adult education. “In these cases the need for flexibility drives the design of the educational spaces so they can accommodate the very different needs of children and adults,” he says. Planning for the holiday surge. Increased attendance on holidays can reveal space inefficiencies. There are creative solutions, say Landau and Zinder, that can help. Th ey include using occasional balcony space, integrated tents, and sliding walls.
Adapting to new technology. “Design professionals who specialize in Judaic facilities off er expertise in everything from electronic controls for heating and cooling systems, to lobby video display and displays for homebound individuals, to automatic hand wash sensors in rest rooms,” says Zinder. Integrating these technological advances into buildings must be done with
care to ensure that they adhere to Jewish law.