Audrey Irmas Pavilion
OMA New York
Los Angeles, United States
Shohei Shigematsu, Jake Forster
Gruen Associates, Arup, Studio-MLA, TheatreDNA, L’Observatoire International, Space Agency, Rhyton Engineering, MATT Construction
Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Given the rich history of the Temple and its civic ambitions, the Audrey Irmas Pavilion is designed as a platform for gathering that is simultaneously respectful to historic traditions and reflective of modern needs. The approach is simple yet contextual. The most efficient event space form, a basic box, is shaped with gestures of respect to the adjacent historic buildings on the campus. The building slopes away from the existing Temple, creating a thoughtful buffer and a new courtyard. It leans south away from the historic school, opening an existing courtyard to the sky and bringing light in. The parallelogram simultaneously reaches out toward Wilshire Boulevard to establish a new urban presence. Carved by its relationship to its neighbors, the Pavilion is both enigmatic and familiar, creating a counterpoint to the Temple that is at once deferential and forward-looking. The building is iconic enough to be recognized a new civic entity but subtle enough to complement the iconicism of the existing Temple.
The new gathering place has the responsibility to the rest of the complex to act, together with the existing buildings and programs, as a highly-connected center for the campus. Existing campus meeting spaces were unable to accommodate the desired scale and diversity of programs. While event spaces often sacrifice character for flexibility, the Pavilion provides flexibility through diversity in scale and spatial characters for gathering. Three distinct event spaces expressed as voids punctured through the building work in tandem with a constellation of formal and informal meeting rooms.
The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is a new 55,000 square foot addition to the Erika J. Glazer Family Campus of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the largest and oldest synagogue in Los Angeles. The Wilshire Boulevard Temple has historically been more than a synagogue, offering a place of community and education in addition to worship. The Temple’s vision for the Pavilion was to amplify its community values and create a much needed space to host the multiple ways in which people convene—a cultural and civic anchor communicating the energy of gathering, learning, and sharing of cultures and knowledge.
Located downtown in the heart of the city’s most diverse neighborhood of Koreatown/Wilshire Center, the campus is home to a historic 1929 Byzantine-Revival sanctuary and a historic elementary school building amongst other neighborhood serving spaces and programs such as a sports complex and a social services center. The Pavilion is located on the corner of South Harvard Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, a main urban axis running through major civic, cultural, and public domains of the city, posing a rare opportunity to establish a new urban presence for the campus and a scale of receptivity to the city around it. The ambition was to create a new focal point for the complex with a mix of programs, including a large flexible event space and meeting spaces of multiple scales working in conjunction with one another and the campus at large to activate a new range of programmatic possibilities.
The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is composed of a series of gathering spaces diverse in scale and character and interlinked. Three key spaces—the main event space (large), a chapel and terrace (medium), and a sunken garden (small)—are interlocked and stacked making up the “core” of the Pavilion and surrounded by a series meeting rooms and informal gathering spaces. A series of openings throughout filter light and frame views to the Temple and historic school, reorienting visitors to the complex and beyond. At the ground level, the main event space echoes the Temple dome by lowering the arc and extruding it north across the site to connect Wilshire Boulevard to the school courtyard. A more intimate Chapel and outdoor terrace on the second level frame the arched stained glass windows of the Temple. The sunken garden connects smaller meeting rooms on the third floor to the rooftop garden with expansive views of Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign, and the mountains to the north. Together, the voids act as a diverse collection of spaces for multiple purposes—from sermons and studies, to b’nai and b’not mitzah and concerts, to work and relaxation.
Completed during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Audrey Irmas Pavilion has reassured the value of gathering but has also supported the changing needs and notions of congregating—physically and visually forging new connections between new and old spaces, diverse programs, and inside and outside environments to embrace human connections to community and the city.