Louis I. Kahn. Mikveh Israel Synagogue, project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Interior perspective sketch. 1963

Louis I. Kahn Mikveh Israel Synagogue, project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Interior perspective sketch 1963

  • Not on view

In 1961, a Sephardic Jewish congregation hired Kahn to design a synagogue in a historic section of Philadelphia. The unrealized temple was designed in the Spanish Orthodox tradition, which calls for a central seating area for men and a separate screened seating area for women, a central bema (the platform from which the Torah is read), and an ark housing scrolls at the eastern end of the space.

This drawing shows the synagogue's sanctuary. Visible in the background are cylindrical "window rooms" surrounding the main space, designed to provide seating for women. With glazed openings in their exterior walls and arched unglazed openings onto the sanctuary, these rooms were planned to diffuse daylight entering the central space. The softened light on the bare concrete walls is rendered here in Kahn's favored medium of charcoal on yellow tracing paper, which captures the monumental language of his placemaking architecture.

Gallery label from 75 Years of Architecture at MoMA, 2007.
Charcoal on tracing paper
18 x 23" (45.7 x 58.4 cm)
Gift of the architect
Object number
© 2021 Estate of Louis I. Kahn
Architecture and Design

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