Wyuka Synagogue

Trevor Kirschenmann
Erik Lemus

ARCH 411, Spring 2019

The Wyuka Synagogue sits in the northwest corner of the Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska. Selected primarily for its seclusion and open space, the site provides easy access from Vine Street - one of Lincoln’s major arteries. Conceptually, this project explores the connection between Jewish ideology and three natural materials inherent to sacred architecture: water, stone and light.

Water signifies purification in Judaism, therefore the traveling over of water thresholds act as a metaphor to cleansing oneself. Water’s heavy usage around and through the building symbolizes a strong presence of God. Stone is used to give grounding to the building. It is tradition to lay small stones on the gravesites of deceased Jewish people as a mechanism to “weigh down” the soul on Earth. Third, light is used in the building to signal circulation and to provide varying natural light quality within different spaces based on the emotion the setting calls for. Direct light, the lack of light and diffused light accompany the idea of pure life, pure death and in what is between.

The primary program consists of a sanctuary, columbarium, crypt and a Jewish learning and community center. Additionally, the building accommodates space for a series of Jewish rituals. Tahara is the process of washing, dressing and praying over the body. Shemira guarding is the act of never leaving the body alone before the funeral. Finally, mikveh is a cleansing ritual where participants can immerses themselves fully underwater in a small bath as a form of spiritual “rebirth”.

Accolades: SARA National Merit Award