Experiencing Frank Lloyd Wright

beth sholom 3

The staff at JL Architects recently had an opportunity to visit the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA.  Organized by the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), the evening included a tour of the Synagogue, as well as a presentation on how Frank Lloyd Wright influenced kitchen and bath design throughout his career. As a design professional, it’s always inspiring to visit the work of our more well-known predecessors.

beth sholom 1

From a designer’s point-of-view, it’s noticeably a Frank Lloyd Wright design from the moment you open the door.  All those design elements that define Wright’s work are evident here, from the playful geometry, to the dramatic contrast in scale from one room to the next, and to the Wright-designed built-in elements.  The geometry of the door pulls, wall sconces, HVAC grilles, and numerous other small details are all deliberately similar in their design… classic Frank.

beth sholom 2

The event’s main speaker, Mariya Reva, member of NKBA and former student at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Arizona, shared her experience with Wright’s Beth Sholom:

“When I walk into Wright’s buildings, I first mentally prepare myself to stop, and open up my awareness (all 5 senses). I want to see, listen (to the bells, water, wind), feel the temperature/breeze, smell the flowers, listen to how the building sounds and almost taste the colors. I am usually looking for specific elements. For example, when you already understand the language, you are listening to the story. Because I feel like I spent a little time connecting to his buildings, I can observe and read the story of that building. This of course, can be done by anyone after enough exposure… like listening to rock music for a while and being able to identify good guitar from bad.”

The Synagogue offers tours to the public, so what would someone unfamiliar with Wright’s work experience? What would they notice or appreciate the most?  As architects, our job is to provide a built environment for our clients, but our goal is to provide a design that makes their experience in the building an enjoyable one.  Whether that experience is calming & secure, dramatic & exciting, or anywhere in between, designers create the tone for your experience, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s works are prime examples of this.


Brandon Runnels

Designer, Green Globes Professional