The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), New York, has recently completed its first cultural building in California, and its first-ever commission from a religious institution. The Audrey Irmas Pavilion, located at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Glazer Family Campus in Los Angeles, California, was designed as an extension to the temple, by a team led by OMA Partner Shohei Shigematsu. The pavilion is intended to be a much-needed gathering place to form new connections with the existing activities on campus and being a new anchor point in the immediate local civic environment.

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Aerial View of the Audrey Irmas Pavilion, adjacent to the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple. © Jason O Rear

About the Project

The Pavilion is a 55,000 square foot structure designed to serve as a hosting venue for activities and performances of religious and cultural nature. It is located adjacent to the historic Jewish temple, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and its aim is to create a space to convene in line with modern needs whilst respecting the historic traditions. The Pavilion has been named after the American philanthropist and art collector, Audre Irmas, who is known to have donated large sums of money to Jewish causes, especially to the Wilshire Temple. After more than a decade-long effort, the project has reached a significant milestone in the construction phase as of September 2021 and is expected to open in January 2022. Shohei Shigematsu, OMA Partner-in-Charge, states, “The making of the Audrey Irmas Pavilion sustained forward momentum through the COVID-19 Pandemic, a period in which the act of human interaction was questioned and contemplated. Its completion comes at a time where we hope to come together again, and this building can be a platform to reinstate the importance of gathering, exchange, and communal spirit.” 

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View of the trapezoidal Pavilion with the Temple in the background and the older buildings around it. ©Jason O Rear

PROJECT FACTS

Partner-in-charge: Shohei Shigematsu
Associate-in-charge: Jake Forster
Team: Jesse Catalano, David Chacon, Caroline Corbett, Nils Sanderson, Andrea Zalewski, Natasha Trice, Marie Claude Fares, Wesley LeForce, Sandy Yum, Jade Kwong, Shary Tawil, Joanne Chen
Executive architect: Gruen Associates
Structure, MEP, facades, FLS, communications: Arup
Performance space consultants: TheatreDNA
Landscape: Studio-MLA
Lighting: L’Observatoire International
Signage/graphic design: Space Agency
Civil engineer: Rhyton Engineering
Vertical transportation: Syska Hennessy Group
General contractor: MATT Construction

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View of the Pavilion from the Boulevard. © Jason O Rear

The Design

OMA began the design with a simple box which slowly converted into a trapezoidal form owing to respect the influence of the surrounding buildings on campus. It slopes away in front of the temple on the West, thus creating a new courtyard between the two buildings. An existing courtyard is opened to the sky on the Southside. Moreover, the form extends onto the main ‘urban corridor’ of Wilshire Boulevard, thus creating a new presence and extending the influence further out into the immediate urban environment. 

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Conceptual View showing the form and the three stacked interconnected voids. © OMA

Shigematsu describes the design as a “constellation of spaces” which are distinct and include – a connecting ‘spine’ which gives rise to a central and multi-functional convening space of wood, a trapezoidal void of stone similar to that of the Temple and a sunken garden with an oasis and a way to the roof terrace which overlooks the city of Los Angeles. The building is in fact punctured by the above mentioned three interconnected gathering spaces or ‘voids’, which are stacked one above the other. The main area is designed to replicate the Temple dome by decreasing the arc on the ground level, while a more intimate chapel and outdoor terrace are created on the second level. As OMA mentions, “the tonality and materiality resonate with the textures of the existing Temple and campus while enhancing interior moments of color throughout the Pavilion.” The façade comprises 1,230 GFRC panels, based on the geometries of the Temple’s dome inside.

Long column-free vaulted interior space. ©Jason O Rear

The panels of the façade are single hexagonal units, each having a rectangular window that is rotated to reflect the program within while combing to create a pattern. Hence, it enhances the building’s volumetric character and breaks down the large mass for the human scale. Internally, spatial programming is flexible. This flexibility in spaces is achieved by OMA through diversity in scale and spatial characteristics. Moreover, thanks to the rectangular windows on the façade, each space is blessed with a series of openings that provide a two-fold benefit -filtered light and views to the temple and historic school of the campus, thus forming a visual connection between the visitor and the context. Owing to full-length vaulted column-free spaces, the building has the capacity to be a venue for a diverse set of activities, including being a banquet or a venue for art events and conventions. 

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Light filtering in through the rectangular openings. ©Jason O Rear
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Hexagonal Panels with rotated rectangular windows, and the material used unifies the exterior with the Temple. © Jason O Rear
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The sunken garden leading to the terrace. © Jason O Rear

Rem Koolhaas, the founder of OMA, was also commissioned to design a ‘mezuzah’ for each door frame within the pavilion. The mezuzah acts as a constant reminder of the context of Jewish faith and religious beliefs. Each individual letter of each mezuzah was carefully developed, hand-cut and polished before being attached to the mezuzah which was made using aluminium foam and was cast in coloured resin. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was delayed but now with the opening date only a few months away, one can expect the Pavilion to be seen fulfilling its purpose of providing a multi-functional set of flexible spaces for socio-cultural and religious congregations. 

Reference List:

  1. Audrey Irmas Pavilion. (n.d.). Home. [online] Available at: https://audreyirmaspavilion.org/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
  2. Howarth, D. (2021). OMA designs extension to Jewish temple in Los Angeles. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2021/09/02/oma-audrey-irmas-pavilion-wilshire-boulevard-temple-los-angeles/  [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
  3. OMA. (n.d.). Audrey Irmas Pavilion. [online] Available at: https://www.oma.com/projects/audrey-irmas-pavilion  [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
  4. Pintos, P. (2021). Audrey Irmas Pavilion / OMA. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/967889/audrey-irmas-pavilion-oma  [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
  5. United States Architecture News (2021). OMA completes Audrey Irmas Pavilion with trapezoidal form that respects its surrounding in California. [online] World Architecture Community. Available at: https://worldarchitecture.org/article-links/evmvg/oma-completes-audrey-irmas-pavilion-with-trapezoidal-form-that-respects-its-surrounding-in-californi.html  [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021]. 
Author

Divyang, a young architect, is curiously exploring the field of Architecture and Design. He is keen on pursuing research on the relationship between the built environment and general well-being. One can find him playing music, clicking pictures, and writing poetry, whenever he is not geeking out over cinema and other forms of art.

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