Our Building

Temple B'Nai TorahA Reform Jewish home on the Eastside

In his innovative and bold design for Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue, architect Walter Schacht of Seattle worked to bring the timeless values of Judaism into harmony with the contemporary culture and landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

The facility is located on 3.5 wooded acres in a residential neighborhood of Bellevue, Washington. This phase consists of a 18,500 square foot building with administrative offices and a 9,000 square, foot multi-purpose hall designed to accommodate a broad range of activities from weekly prayer services to formal and informal gatherings, educational activities and annual High Holy Day assemblies of 1100 people. Future phases of the project include a 450 seat permanent sanctuary for weekly services and an educational building with ten classrooms.

The design concept:

Establishing the geometry of the site and creating a sacred precinct for gathering, learning and spirituality are concrete masonry walls set in an L-shaped configuration and custom colored to recall the warm, creamy hue of buildings in Jerusalem. Walter Schacht’s creative use of masonry has garnered him the highest awards at the 1998 Excellence in Masonry Design Awards, held November 5, 1998 in Seattle. A week later, it was the AIA’s turn to honor Schacht’s distinctive design.

EntranceLeaning on and against this mass is a lightweight steel structure of columns and trusses that enclose a tabernacle, which can be subdivided into sanctuary, social hall and classrooms or opened up for large assemblies. The steel structure recalls the portable sanctuary that the Jews carried across the desert as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is the modern equivalent of a tent, hovering over the courtyard formed by the masonry ‘L” and oriented to the surrounding woods of 100′ tall fir trees.
The use of simple and timeless materials — concrete block, exposed steel structure and integrally colored concrete — is responsive to the limits of the project budget and the unpretentious nature of the community. The tectonics of the building reflect both the nature of a young, growing congregation living in the heart of a region known for technological innovation and ancient architectural traditions.

The use of simple and timeless materials — concrete block, exposed steel structure and integrally colored concrete — is responsive to the limits of the project budget and the unpretentious nature of the community. The tectonics of the building reflect both the nature of a young, growing congregation living in the heart of a region known for technological innovation and ancient architectural traditions.

Ner TamidThe tabernacle is lit from above, giving the synagogue’s spaces a strong sense of spirituality. Metal diffusers reflect light and sound as they enhance the sense of the space as a tent for gathering.

TBT BuildingIn keeping with the architectural language, the liturgical furnishings are designed to complement the idea of portability. The lectern, reader’s table and ark are all built on wheels to allow the tabernacle to be set up for either intimate weekly worship services or annual High Holiday assemblies.

With its movable walls and adjustable spaces, Temple B’nai Torah’s Great Room becomes a social hall of exactly the right size. The hall is available to congregant families for their b’nai mitzvah, wedding and other catered parties. For information, contact the Temple office.

Photographs ©1998 Eduardo Calderon