First look at the OMA-Designed Expansion of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Wilshire Boulevard Temple, OMA
Rendering of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s campus at nighttime with the 1929 Sanctuary (left) and the design for the new building (right). Courtesy of Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Los Angeles—Plans for Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s new building, designed by the world-class firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and its partners Shohei Shigematsu and Rem Koolhaas, were submitted for approval to the City of Los Angeles on March 30, revealing the initial design and the first rendering. Pending approval from the city, and additional fundraising, the new building will break ground in late 2018 with plans to open in 2020. Named Audrey Irmas Pavilion for its lead donor, whose $30 million gift for the project launched the capital campaign in 2015, the building will be in dialogue with the 1929 Byzantine-Revival sanctuary located on Wilshire Boulevard, midway between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Construction of Audrey Irmas Pavilion will complete the Temple’s Building Lives Campaign by providing a space for the Temple’s members and other organizations to host events, meetings, and programs in an inspiring architectural setting. Audrey Irmas Pavilion will include a banquet hall with a commercial kitchen, meeting and conference rooms, and a rooftop garden, all of which will be available for use by the larger community.

Rabbi Steve Leder states, “Audrey Irmas Pavilion, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu —the firm’s first cultural building in California—will offer an irresistible invitation to gather, celebrate, learn, and reach out to others. In a city so large and so diverse, we need community, and we need inspiring, welcoming places. Los Angeles deserves a modern masterpiece that brings people together in the heart of the city’s most diverse neighborhood. We are very proud that Wilshire Boulevard Temple will be a vital part of the cultural, religious, and socially conscious conversation that is defining 21st Century Los Angeles.”

Shohei Shigematsu commented, “We wanted to focus on communicating the energy of gathering and exchange. The pavilion is an active gesture, shaped by respectful moves away from the surrounding historic buildings, that reaches out onto Wilshire Boulevard to create a new presence. Within the building, a series of interconnected meeting spaces at multiple scales provide ultimate flexibility for assembly while maintaining visual connections that establish outdoor indoor porosity and moments of surprise encounters.”

Audrey Irmas explains, “Wilshire Boulevard Temple has been an important part of my family for generations. I am so happy to have provided the first major gift, and I hope others will be inspired to support Audrey Irmas Pavilion and bring it to completion.”

OMA was selected as the winner of an architectural competition to design the approximately 55,000-square-foot building, which will accommodate events for the congregation and greater community, such as weddings, bat and bar mitzvah celebrations, conferences and galas for nonprofit organizations, and other events and meetings. It will also be used for large-scale support for those in need, such as hot meal programs and medical clinics. The new building will have a meaningful civic presence, bringing an important architectural structure to Wilshire Boulevard, and the city of Los Angeles. It will be positioned on the Temple’s Erika J. Glazer Family Campus on Wilshire Boulevard, in the heart of this vibrant urban center, in the neighborhood now called Koreatown. The budget for the building project is estimated at $75 million.

The design is an expression of respect to the surrounding buildings—the west façade slopes away from the existing temple while leaning south away from the historic school. The resulting form, carved by its relationship to its neighbors, is both enigmatic yet familiar. The subtle expression simultaneously reaches out toward the main urban corridor of Wilshire Boulevard to establish a new urban presence.

The pavilion is comprised of three distinct gathering spaces that puncture through the building—a main event space, a smaller multi-purpose room and a sunken garden. The three interlocking gathering spaces are stacked one atop another to establish vantage points and framed views in and out of each space while creating a series of openings that filter light and reorient visitors to the complex and beyond.

The building is OMA’s first commission from a religious institution, and the firm’s first cultural building in California. The design team is based in OMA’s New York Office, and is led by Shohei Shigematsu.

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