Ulm Synagogue – German Building

Ulm Synagogue, German Jewish Building, German Religious Architecture, Photo, Architect

Ulm Synagogue

New German Place of Worship – design by kister scheithauer gross architects & urban planners GmbH

10 Dec 2012

Ulm Synagogue

Location: Ulm, Germany

Design: kister scheithauer gross architects and urban planners GmbH

ksg Completes Ulm Synagogue

20 months after the ground breaking ceremony, ksg handed over the synagogue to the Jewish community of Ulm, Germany. The large window with the Star of David pattern indicates the direction of Jerusalem. Federal president of Germany Joachim Gauck held the opening speech.

Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany
photos © Christian Richters

kister scheithauer gross architects and urban planners (ksg) have completed the community centre and synagogue for the Jewish community of Ulm.

In 2009, the Israelite Religious Community in Württemberg (IRGW) decided to build a new synagogue for its orthodox community in Ulm and, together with the city of Ulm, initiated a competition. The city placed the building site in the middle of the Weinhof, just a stone’s throw from the former synagogue, which was destroyed during Kristallnacht.

“The team from Cologne succeeded in enriching this highly sensitive location in the city of Ulm, without detracting from its unique character,” said the city’s head of construction, Alexander Wetzig, following the jury’s decision in January 2010.

In the completed build, the cuboid is lower and shorter than initially planned during the competition. It is now 24 meters wide, 16 deep and at 17 meters high, much lower than the nearby Schwörhaus.

“The synagogue and the Jewish community centre are included in one single structure. The compact cuboid is free standing in the square. This position is historical: in the Kristallnacht in 1938, the former synagogue, which was enclosed in a road side development, was destroyed. After World War II, a secular building was constructed in the space. The synagogue and the Jewish community lost its ancestral place in the centre of Ulm. The construction of the current synagogue has opened a new site, in the middle of the square. It is as though the synagogue has taken a step forward from its former position, it has reclaimed its location. With no constructed borders, it stands abrupt and solitary on the Weinhof,” explains Prof. Susanne Gross regarding the urban building concept.

Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany
photos © Christian Richters

All the spaces of the community centre and the synagogue are joined in the smooth structure: foyer, synagogue, Mikvah (ritual bath), meeting hall, school and administrative rooms as well as the child day care centre with an enclosed outdoor playing area, which is directly above the sacral room.

The rooms are arranged orthogonally. Only the synagogue follows the line of the only, free-standing support in the building, in a diagonal direction. The direction facing south-east has an overlying religious meaning behind it: its geographical direction is directly towards Jerusalem, the spiritual and religious centre of Judaism. The diagonal room layout creates a corner window in the sacral room, which plays with a pattern of the Star of David as a space framework. With 600 openings, the synagogue is illuminated from many points, with the focal point being the liturgical centrepiece; the Torah shrine. The perforations in the façade created with a high-pressure water jet, illuminate the shrine inside and project the idea of the synagogue outwards.

The interior fittings of the synagogue are partially based on ksg plans, such as the dodecagon holder, a symbol for the twelve lines of the people of Israel. Rabbi Shneur Trebnik, together with the IRGW representatives, selected the seating and ordered the construction of the Torah shrine, including the bimah, a raised platform with a lectern, from which the Torah is dictated. All three elements were constructed in Israel.

The prayer room offers space for 125 people, including 40 spaces in the women’s gallery. The building was full to capacity during the opening on Sunday, December 2nd 2012. The 300 invited guests included former Jewish citizens of Ulm, who fled during World War II. Speeches were held by Federal President of Germany Joachim Gauck, Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann, the President of Central Council of Jews in Germany Dieter Graumann and Israel’s ambassador to Germany Yacov Hadas-Handelsman.

Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagooue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany Ulm Synagogue Germany
photos © Christian Richters / images from architect

Ulm Synagogue – Building Information

Project participants
Client: Israelite Religious Community of Württemberg statutory corporation
Occupant: Rabbi Shneur Trebnik and the orthodox Jewish community of Ulm
Authorities: City of Ulm, Germany
Mayor: Ivo Gönner
Head of construction: Alexander Wetzig
Architects: kister scheithauer gross architects and urban planners
Design/responsible partner: Prof. Susanne Gross
Project manager, artistic director: Grzegorz Rybacki
Team: Fritz Keuten, Matthes Langhinrichs, Stefan Schwarz, Paul Youk
Project management: nps Bauprojektmanagement GmbH, Ulm, Germany
General contractor: Matthäus Schmid Bauunternehmen GmbH & Co. KG, Baltringen, Germany

Consultants in the competition and design phase
Structural analysis: Dr.-Ing. W.Naumann & Partner, Köln
Thermo gravimetric analysis: ZWP AG, Köln
Acoustics: ISRW Dr.-Ing. Klapdor GmbH, Düsseldorf
Building physics: Ing.-Büro für Bauphysik Heinrichs, Köln
Fire safety: BFT Cognos, Aachen

Project data
Competition: Nov 2009
Performance time: 2010-12
Start of construction: Mar 2011
Completion: Dec 2012
Gross floor space: 1.980 m²
Performance phases: 1 – 4 plus artistic direction and

master details
Construction costs: 4.6 million euros

Ulm Synagogue Building information / images from kister scheithauer gross architects and urban planners


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