Harking back to the traditional wooden synagogues in eastern Europe, a new wooden synagogue is now set to be built — in London: a small, modern chapel that that will be attached to the Victorian era lodge of the historic Jewish cemetery on Lauriston Road off Victoria Park in east London’s Hackney borough.
Before World War II, eastern Europe boasted hundreds of wooden synagogues — many of them extremely elaborate structures that dated back hundreds of years. Almost all were destroyed. Only a handful of wooden synagogues in that part of Europe escaped destruction — all of them small, rather simple buildings resembling barns or houses. (Some of these are being or have been restored in recent years.)
The architectural firm Waugh Thistleton announced by Twitter Wednesday that its design for Lauriston Road had won planning approval. In the tweet it said “We think the design offers an organic, considered addition to the area.” The firm, which prioritizes wood in its designs, has worked with United Synagogue, which owns the site, in the past and won awards for its recent project, a new section of the Bushey Jewish cemetery near London, including new pre-burial houses.
The Architects’ Journal wrote that the one-storey building would be 60 square meters in size and “will be constructed from engineered timber, referencing traditional timber eastern European Ashkenazi synagogues. It will, however, use modern methods of construction, allowing the frame to be prefabricated and assembled on site.”
It will have a very simple interior, under a sloping roof supported by ribbed framing. Light will come in from windows in the wooden ribs supporting the roof.
The Architects’ Journal wrote that that the project had received a green light despite opposition from the Central and South Hackney Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which criticized the design and said the new structure would block street views of the cemetery and “detract from the appearance of the conservation area.”