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Located in Reisterstown, Maryland, this 200-seat chapel was built adjunct to an existing synagogue, along with a new educational wing and administrative offices. The dominant form of the chapel is a vaulted roof that recalls the traditional forms of early center-bima synagogues. It is twisted along its diagonal axis to reinforce solar orientation as well as to establish a rotation around a center cupola over the bima, further emphasizing the centrality of the space. Early synagogues were often surrounded by high walls with small punched windows, providing protection from an often hostile public; a design form which is continued in the main synagogue’s façade. A “thick” wall shelters the new chapel on three sides, echoing these forms, while providing a layer of indirect light and containing ancillary seating as well as the ark. Solar orientation is maximized to provide the chapel with distinct moods for daily morning and evening services. The modified vault and the surrounding walls give way to large expanses of glass at the East and West corners in which stained-glass windows depicting pillars of smoke and fire further mark the passage of the sun.

This design for a new synagogue uses an existing building as a visual and spatial anchor for a new sanctuary. Taking advantage of a sloping site the scheme allows for entrances from two levels of parking, and maximizes usable square footage with a minimum footprint. A lobby and grand stair connects the two floors and acts as a link between an office, a support wing, and the sanctuary wing. The sanctuary consists of a central bima beneath a high clerestory. Seating on three sides allows for an intimate service even when partitions are opened into the social hall to allow for high holy day services.


Beth El Congregation


Reisterstown, Maryland


5,400 SF




Historic + Adaptive Reuse



Design Team: Kinsley Construction (Contractor)


AIA Maryland 1999

AIA Baltimore 1999