With the Jewish Community Center in the heart of Regensburg’s old town, the historical “Sacred Triangle”, composed of the Catholic Dome, the Protestant New Parish Church and the Jewish Synagogue, has been restored. The new extension designed with meditative clarity by Staab Architekten integrates well with the beautiful existing building and supplements it with a magical light-flooded synagogue and further inviting spaces for the now grown Jewish community of Regensburg.
Contemporary Architecture within an UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 2015, the team of Staab Architekten from Berlin won the limited realisation competition of the Jewish Community in Regensburg. With their lucid, massive, yet inviting design they solved a seemingly contradictory assignment: to integrate a contemporary architectural language into the old town of Regensburg, which has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to combine the high security requirements with a sense of openness. Above all, the new construction fills a gap, because the synagogue destroyed in 1938 during the Reichspogromnacht awaited its reconstruction for a long time, despite the increasing number of parishioners. In the meantime, it had been replaced with a low prayer room that had long since become too small. Once again, it now forms the spiritual center of the community and occupies a large part of the new construction.
Architecturally Integrated Light in the New Extensio
The entrance courtyard welcomes the visitor with an installation by the artist Tom Kristen. On a gold-plated bronze spiral, he cites Rose Ausländer’s poem “Gemeinsam” (“Together”). Adjacent to the recessed entrance is the extensive and freely accessible library with its glazed front.
The lighting devices in all indoor spaces of the new building are fully integrated and concealed. Low glare recessed downlights follow the library shelves but are also located in the corridors and education rooms. In selected areas, the reflectors of the downlights are painted matte white in order to avoid parabolic scallops on the walls.
The stair well is illuminated by wall recessed luminaires with massive glass covers. Integrated into the edge of the first intermediate landing there are also linear wallwashers facing downwards and upwards, thus rendering the continuous stair case rear wall visible.
A Multifunctional Community Hall with a Coffered Light Ceiling
The community hall on the ground floor serves a variety of functions, starting from lectures and recitals, to festivities, community assemblies and music events. The interior design of the space is thus tailored to provide multi-functionality and flexibility.
Simultaneously, the designers attached great importance to maintaining the building’s calmness and clarity and to not superimpose it with various installations. The solution was a coffered ceiling, that accommodates smoke detectors, speakers and sprinklers in its cavities. A white grid visually closes off the coffers towards the bottom – permeable to light and air, yet a surface that shrouds technical elements of any kind.
Centred in every coffer is an E27 socket with an LED retrofit lamp. These luminaires create the space’s ambient brightness. They lend a soft luminous presence to the vertical lamellae of the grid below. Through the multiplication of the coffers and their light sources a rhythmically modulated luminous ceiling emerges that unfolds great vigour in its perspective view. Although low for its size, the space never seems squat, but friendly and inviting.
In order to be able to host events, the introduction of a stage lighting component was necessary. For this purpose, monopoints have been recessed flush into the ceiling grid. These can be fitted with adjustable spot lights with optical accessories. If this option is not used, the ceiling remains smooth.
Spiritual Heart and Meditative Light Resonance Chamber
Located on the 1st floor is the double-height synagogue space with its gallery. The building volume that is most active in the urban context is located on the new building’s South-East corner and forms a massive cube with a shallow wooden dome. The palpable spatial envelope is defined by light-coloured wood lamellae, that form a space within a space. The latter is slightly swiveled relative to the remaining building volume in order to achieve a precise east-orientation. Located at the interface between the wall and the flat wooden dome is a window line that pleasantly fills the synagogue with daylight. The density of the lamellae dissolves with increasing height and thus creates an ethereal spatial experience in spite of the cubical room proportions, even the impression of a sacred sanctuary striving towards the sky.
For the lighting orchestration, a powerful, narrow-beam grazing light channel in 2,700 K is following the outline of the inner roof edge. It is concealed inside a recess above the windows and segmented in length in order to follow the soft curvature of the dome without disruptions. The room facing surfaces of the window panes are softly frosted through a screen print in order to assume their own brightness – be it through daylight or the above-mentioned grazing light channel. Simultaneously, the frosting is so gentle that outdoor weather conditions remain detectable when inside the room.
In the evening hours this design fills the interspace behind the lamellae with warm light. The wooden louvers appear in silhouette while the void behind them becomes perceptible and the flanks of the lamellae assume a sculpting brightness.
The synagogue’s functional light is provided by pendant luminaires. Surrounded by the circumferential gallery, they form a field that mirrors the curvature of the dome. The diffuse cylinders give a soft presence to the space, gently illuminate the faces and song books of the worshippers, and even reach the space underneath the gallery. The canopies of the pendant luminaires are recessed flush inside the roof shell in order not to disrupt its vaulted shape.
Through the interplay between the directional backlighting of the lamellae and the soft ambient light a multilayered room emerges that allows the creation of various moods by virtue of activating different components.
The Thora shrine is recessed in the Eastern wall of the synagogue. Hidden behind the flush wing doors and usually hidden by a velvet curtain is the actual Thora shrine with its golden sliding doors. Inside the velvet lined shrine, the precious Thora scrolls are stored. Concealed behind the cavity’s upper rim is a lighting profile that swivels around its longitudinal axis and can thus be adjusted to illuminate the Thora. As a result, the scrolls are illuminated appropriately and solemnly.
With the sole exception of the lamellae backlighting the colour temperature in the synagogue – as in the entire building – is 3,000 K. This creates a delicate visual warmth that is also fresh and contemporary.
Additive Light in the Existing Building Creates Laid-Back Charm
While the new building is characterized by calm surfaces and integrated solutions, the existing old building, originating from the Wilhelminian era with its protected surfaces required a different approach. Here, all lighting elements are surface or pendant mounted.
Here too, various E27 sockets with LED vintage bulb retrofit lamps are employed. Although contemporary, they are closely linked to the historical envelope and create a discreet laid-back elegance.
Located between the new and the old building is an intimate inner courtyard. Here too, surface mounted luminaires are placed on the old building facade and orientation luminaires are recessed in the new building facade thus underlining the contemplative character of the cobbled courtyard.
The entire ensemble of the Jewish Community Centre in Regensburg is an accomplished entity, combined of an old and new construction, of tradition and modernism, of comfort and openness. Light and architecture form a natural symbiosis and welcome users and visitors alike.
Client: Jüdische Gemeinde Regensburg
Association of friends: Förderverein Neue Regensburger Synagoge e.V.
Client support: Dömges Architekten AG, Regensburg
Architect: Staab Architekten GmbH, Berlin
Construction management (starting from shell and core): Ernst2 Architekten AG
Landscape design: Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten, Berlin
Lighting design: LICHT KUNST LICHT AG, Bonn/Berlin/Barcelona
Project management: Stephanie Grosse-Brockhoff
Project team: Lisa Görke, Felix Beier
Building services engineer: WBP Winkels Behrens Pospich, Munster
Construction management building services: Melzl Planung GmbH, Pentling
Structural engineering: Drexler+Baumruck Straubing
Structural engineering roof vault synagogue: Dr. Gollwitzer – Dr. Linse, Munich
Date of completion: 2019
Project size: 1,700 m2, scope of work LKL indoor spaces: 1,100 m2, scope of work LKL outdoor spaces: 220 m2
Photos: Marcus Ebener
About LICHT KUNST LICHT AG
Licht Kunst Licht is an international lighting design office, with offices in Bonn, Berlin, and Barcelona. With an enormous portfolio comprising of over 800 completed projects, many having received the most prestigious honors and awards, Licht Kunst Licht is seen as one of the world’s most successful specialists in lighting. In addition to the planning and design of artificial light, the team also includes specialists dedicated to daylight and product design.
Over 500 book and magazine publications, and a collection of four personally published books to date, document Licht Kunst Licht’s extensive field of activity.