OMA pavilion brings fresh slant to California temple

OMA pavilion brings fresh slant to California temple

Audrey Irmas Pavilion is OMA’s first California temple commission and has completed in Los Angeles

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles has just unveiled its latest addition. The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is not only famed architecture studio OMA’s first California religious commission; it is also its first cultural building in the state. Led by practice partner Shohei Shigematsu, the modern pavilion was concieved as a contemporary addition and counterpoint to the complex’s 1929 Byzantine-Revival sanctuary next door. 

The Audrey Irmas Pavilion, named after its lead donor, incorporates a new initiative and community space – the Wallis Annenberg GenSpace, a dedicated facility for ‘older Angelenos’. Flexible spaces that can accomodate meetings of various natures and sizes make up the interiors – although the main gathering spaces comprise the Grand Ballroom, a smaller chapel/event space, and a sunken garden. 

hero aerial showing whole site and building with context at at Audrey Irmas Pavilion by OMA

The pavilion’s design makes a bold, contemporary statement in its setting. At the same time, it was important to the architecture team to respect the existing context, which has inspired the volume’s angled walls that lean away gently from the existing historical buildings. 

The pavilion’s distinctive façade is key to the lasting impression the building makes. It is made up of 1,230 hexagonal panels of glass fibre-reinforced concrete (GRFC). Meanwhile, practice founder Rem Koolhaas was commissioned especially to design a mezuzah (a piece of parchment in a decorative case containing verses from the Torah) for each door frame within. ‘I was both intrigued and challenged to design these for the doors within the pavilion. [A mezuzah] is an unexpected religious object having to answer explicit religious edicts, laws and rules, which made it totally fascinating for me and a very good lesson to have,’ says Koolhaas. 

‘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,’ Shigematsu adds. ‘Its completion comes at a time when we hope to come together again, and this building can be a platform to reinstate the importance of gathering, exchange, and communal spirit.

‘We assembled a constellation of spaces, distinct in form, scale, and aura – an extruded vault enveloped in wood establishes a multifunctional, central gathering space and connective spine; a trapezoidal void draws tones from the temple dome and frames its arched, stained-glass windows; and a circular sunken garden provides an oasis and passage to a roof terrace overlooking LA. Three interconnected voids make the solid form of the pavilion strategically yet surprisingly porous, engaging the campus and the city.

‘The pavilion will support both old and new activities, values, and traditions to foster a renewed energy for gathering.’ §

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