TEMPLE EMANUEL DESIGNED BY ERICH MENDELSOHN
Text and photos by Pam VanderPloeg, copyright 2017.
Temple Emanuel is beautifully sited on Fulton East at the corner of Holmdene Street and across from the Aquinas College campus. Internationally known architect Erich Mendelsohn was commissioned to build the Temple in 1948. Groundbreaking took place in January 1951 and the structure was completed in November 1953. Mendelsohn died in September 15, 1953 and never saw the building completed. The dedication was held on May 21, 1954. Local architects Charles A. O'Bryon and E. John Knapp of O'Bryon & Knapp served as associate architects on the project.
The chairman of the building committee was Silas Albert. Albert and his brothers Harold and Samuel founded an innovative company that provided full-service real estate, building and financing services beginning in the 1920's when Silas moved the Grand Rapids following graduation from Bowdoin College in Maine and service in World War I. Harold followed after graduating from Harvard and Samuel who graduated from Yale came last. The brothers built modern homes throughout Grand Rapids and in Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Grand Haven as well. It's no wonder that Silas promoted one of the world's leading modern architects to design the Temple. Mendelsohn who was teaching at the time at Berkeley, specialized in Temple design. He had immigrated to the US from London after leaving Germany during the turbulent Hitler years leading up to World War II. One of Mendelsohn's iconic designs was the Einstein Tower. Google it to be amazed!
Temple Emanuel sits solidly on a slight angle to the street and yet it seems to soar in place, the full-length clerestory windows on the second level, separated by a vertical element creating the illusion of wings - one reference being to a bird in flight. The windows flood the interior with light. The yellow brick and white trim facade is approached via a deep covered walkway. An original sculpture by Carl Albert separates the two sets of glazed double doors under the deep projecting entry roof. The interior features a recently restored 1000 square foot mural created by painter Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff, protégé of Diego Rivera, decorated with important symbols of the faith. Beautiful burnished wood walls are movable. There is a pretty courtyard separating the Temple from the L-shaped classroom building.
To read more about the Temple, link here to the Michigan Modern website http://www.michiganmodern.org/buildings/temple-emanuel