In a commission that diversified their practice with a strong institutional component, the brief called for Abramson Teiger to do a feasibility study to expand and recast an existing school on the site. The architects did not recommend knocking the entire school down to create a tabula rasa for a ground-up campus, but chose to keep the science lab and the auditorium, which they would renovate. They added 15,000 square feet of space, configuring the buildings around a courtyard, where the library, the heart of the school, was sited.
The emotional quality of the environment was an important consideration in the design. The architects wanted the institutional design to be open, lively, airy, and warm; they also wanted to include some historical reference and symbols to the cultural roots of Jewish community.
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The use of Jerusalem stone allowed Abramson Teiger to achieve the goals of warmth and history, and they were very opportunistic, in the best sense of the word, in finding light within an introverted set of buildings. The gym has large windows, and the library has glass walls, not all clear, on two sides. The architects mixed blue spandrel and transparent glass in a Mondrian-esque pattern on the curtain walls facing the court, in ratios that admit more or less light, depending on the exposure. The fagade of the library bows out slightly, gently pressuring the courtyard with certain fullness.
The compounded effect of the glass is one of multiple transparencies, the bowed glass structure embedded within a ring of other glass structures. The spaces inside seem to blur across fagades in an ambiguity that gives the courtyard, which is not large, borrowed visual depth.
At around the same time, Abramson Teiger was commissioned to design another religious building, the synagogue Young Israel of North Beverly Hills.
The demands of a congregational space require a self-contained form for an internalized program, and as an institution on a major thoroughfare demanding civic presence, the commission needed a certain monumentality, if not mass. To avoid overstatement, the architects broke the form into a number of articulate pieces that segment the overall mass. At the corner, they emphasized the entry with a primary form that rises up, creating a signature for the building. Though closed, the volume is not monolithic. Design strategies posited in Abramson’s first houses carry over in a transformed language that the larger scale requires.