The Cymbalista Synagogue 
And Jewish Heritage Center
Tel Aviv, Israel
1996 - 1998

The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center, Tel Aviv, Israel



Campus of Tel Aviv University , Israel

Paulette and Norbert Cymbalista

Surface area
800 m²

7'325 m³ 

"A place for prayer and a place for discussion: a synagogue and lecture hall, a place where the religious and the secular can meet. This was the mandate, which I received from Paulette and Norberto Cymbalista when they commissioned me to construct a new building on the campus of Tel Aviv University . An appropriate site was chosen in consultation with the university authorities in January 1996: a corner of the main lawn where large student assemblies are held; this location would ensure that the new building would readily be perceived as serving the students themselves. In today’s world, architects rarely receive commissions with goals as clear and precise as the ones in this project: to build two spaces that are separate in function but unified in design and to express the need for spirituality that is shared by all people. My concept of the project was helped not only by the clients’ clear ideas about what they wanted, but also by their generosity. I am convinced that any project resulting from such a mandate must be simple and powerful. The Cymbalistas specified that the building has two connecting separate and distinct areas. As such, the design incorporates a dual image of two towers linked by a ground floor lobby where the services are located. The two squared-based foundations of the towers rise into a conoid, which then becomes a circle at roof level. Both towers are constructed using the same materials (Pietra Dorata “gilded” Tuscany stone inside, Verona stone outside) and both interiors are top-lighted in exactly the same way. Thus, they generate identical geometrical spaces designed for different functions, just as a two-headed creature presents a mysterious duality of possible meanings and functions. However, the real themes (apart from the obvious functionality of the synagogue and lecture-hall ) are wholly architectural, in the sense that the intrinsic features of the spaces themselves have absolute priority. The sculpture-like exteriors and unusual proportions of the two towers in relation to the service volume render them impressive, despite the fact that they are actually quite small. The enigmatic, totem-like appearance of the structure challenges users to ask what the building is communicating- as both a mirror of its times and a repository of thousands of years of memories".