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Temple Beth Elohim

Wellesley, Massachusetts

Team

William Rawn Associates, Architect; Boston MA

Project Description

This new synagogue features an intimate 400-seat sanctuary which expands to accommodate up to 1,100 during High Holy Days. Situated on a wooded hillside in Wellesley, the design uses an extensive curtain wall system to visually connect the congregation with the scenic beauty of the site. Numerous acoustic and AV systems elements, including micro-perforated materials, processed column loudspeakers, video displays, touch panels, and a digital media backbone all work together to support the Temple’s extensive musical tradition while respecting the beauty of this sacred space.

The acoustic design kept the background noise level low for the large volume of the sanctuary and also controlled the potentially very high reverberation time produced by the volume and large glass curtain walls. Microperforated wood veneer panels were used to provide visually discrete absorption on the walls which were not windows. Similar materials were also used on the backs of tall benches which circle the congregation seating and which otherwise would have produced focused reflections across the space. These treatments were used in combination with loudspeakers which were programmed to keep the sound energy in the low zone of the room to control reverberation and maintain clarity.

The principal challenge of the audio system was to provide highly intelligible voice reinforcement whether the bimah was located in its normal position or when it was moved to a High Holy Days position. The loudspeaker system can be switched to use the appropriate loudspeakers in either case and the fixed-position loudspeakers are supported in each location by small column loudspeakers built into the beautiful custom-designed lectern. One of the Social Hall rooms also includes a high-output loudspeaker system and subwoofer used for watching movies.

The video system includes a movie system and two powerful video projectors mounted inside the rear wall of the sanctuary for projection onto screens in the sanctuary. The mounting isolates the projector noise and visual clutter from the visually pristine sanctuary.

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