Soranno-designed synagogue opens


by Todd Melby, 8/15/08 • After conducting services in a former Mormon meeting house for decades, the congregation of B’nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester, Minnesota recently moved into a new building designed by architect Joan Sorrano of HGA Architects.

Located at 607 Second Street Southwest, the structure is the first newly constructed synagogue in Southern Minnesota. Sorrano also designed the Alaska Museum of the North (Fairbanks, Alaska), Bigelow Chapel (New Brighton) and Barbara Barker Center for Dance (Minneapolis). Press materials describe the synagogue as an “intimate, contemplative sanctuary that can expand to accommodate a much larger audience during High Holidays and other special events. It includes a translucent layered east-facing wall in the sanctuary housing the ark and terraced gardens that look out on the surrounding neighborhood.

“The centerpiece of the 15,300 facility is a 134-seat sanctuary with an adjacent social hall that can be opened up to provide an additional 174 seats and which can be used independently from the sanctuary as banquet and event space. The facility also includes a library, administration offices, a catering kitchen, and an education center consisting of eight classrooms gathered around a large multipurpose room.”

Construction on the synagogue isn’t 100 percent complete. However, the congregation is conducting services in the space. I’m especially anxious to check out this building after seeing Sorrano’s work on Bigelow Chapel, which I first saw almost three years ago for the very first Building Minnesota podcast (November 28, 2005). You can listen to that story at iTunes.