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Look To The Light

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Several years after a devastating fire burned Temple Ahavat Achim to the ground, architect Maryann Thompson and her team rebuilt the house of worship in Glouster, Massachusetts, with a design that centers on light.

The concept plays out in different ways throughout the space. In the intricate unfolding structure of the entryway, a brick screen creates an indoor/outdoor courtyard filled with dappled light. “It’s really beautiful, the light comes through the bricks in a way that’s almost like light through leaves,” Thompson says.

Inside, large story windows top the second-floor sanctuary’s soaring, 22-foot bamboo walls. “When you’re in the sanctuary you can see the clouds and the library steeple and you have the connection back to the town and to nature and to the light,” Thompson says. The effect is one that straddles the public and private qualities a community place of worship demands: “The building is trying to address that fine line between being introspective and extroverted.” With ocean views and sound-absorbing panels modeled after the built-in acoustical systems of old symphony halls, the sanctuary space includes some of the architect’s favorite details, as well.

Though the new temple’s more modern aesthetic initially stirred some controversy in the traditional New England community, the building is now featured on the historic town’s architecture walking tour. And the mahogany front door—the only piece of the original structure Thompson’s team could salvage—once again welcomes the temple’s congregants inside.  

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