Temple Beth El by architect Minoru Yamasaki

Temple Beth El, Study #01, photo by Brian Day

Temple Beth El was established in 1850 as the first Jewish congregation in the state of Michigan. Their history page notes that there were just 60 Jews out of a population of 21,000 at that time.

The Michigan Notable Book Michigan Modern’s page on Temple Beth El says in part:

Temple Beth El is located in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on a low rise adjacent to Telegraph Road, a wide and heavily traveled thoroughfare. Mature spruce and pine trees are present around the base of the structure to shield the worshippers from outside distractions. The unmistakable design of the sanctuary incorporates a tent-like form to recall the “Tent of Meeting” referenced in the Bible and the earliest places of worship used by the Jewish people. The cast-in-place concrete structure consists of two pairs of closely placed sloped columns, or tent poles, supporting curved ridge beams at the top of the structure and tied together by elliptical ring beams at the structure’s base. Below the ring beam is a transparent curtain wall of clear glazing that gives the illusion, from the exterior and interior that the tent-form roof is hovering above the open sanctuary space. Between the ridge beams is a transparent skylight that provides natural light into the sanctuary and further emphasizes the “lightness” of the structure. Catenary steel cables suspended between the ridge and ring beams support the gentle curve of the lead-coated copper roof which soars some seventy feet above grade.

The administrative offices, social halls and religious school are located in a one-story wing that extends north from the main entrance to the sanctuary on the building’s west elevation. The Temple Beth El comprises approximately 112,500 square feet, and can accommodate up to eighteen hundred worshippers.

Read on for more!

View the photo bigger on Facebook where there are other photos in his Metro Detroit Modern Architecture Study and see more of Brian’s photography at brianday.org.

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