Mark Cavagnero Associates will renovate San Francisco’s historic Byzantine Revival synagogue

Local architect Arthur Brown Jr. designed the Byzantine Revival style Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, now the Bay Area’s largest synagogue, in 1925. Almost 100 years later, the congregation’s leadership has hired local firm Mark Cavagnero Associates to spearhead a renovation intended to bring out the building’s historic features and expand areas for the congregation’s events and programs.

(Courtesy Mark Cavagnero Associates)

The firm will add two glass stories for educational and community programming at the Reform synagogue that will sit beside an open-air courtyard. The children’s playground will be moved to the rooftop, with direct access to the preschool. While the glazing will keep the building light and breezy, the addition’s bronze mullions tie it visually to the existing building’s terra-cotta roof, plaster walls, and bronze gates. Underground, Mark Cavagnero Associates is digging out two levels for building services and offices.

(Courtesy Mark Cavagnero Associates)

While many of these changes will be visible mostly to congregants, the design team has planned a public change with the reopening of Temple Emanu-El’s main, long-closed, entrance on Lake Street, a move that will restore the original flow from doorstep to the Main Sanctuary.

“The iconic Temple Emanu-El has been the center of Jewish life and worship for one of the oldest congregations in California, and it is humbling to be given the opportunity to re-envision the building,” said Mark Cavagnero Associates’ Founding Principal Mark Cavagnero in a press release. “Our firm has completed historic renovations throughout the Bay Area, including the Legion of Honor Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Wilsey Center for Opera at the War Memorial Veterans Building. These organizations, like Temple Emanu-El, are integral parts of our lives. Our work is deeply grounded in the belief that the best way to extend the life of buildings is to make changes necessary for them to remain useful and relevant for the current and future generations while respecting their past. The Temple Emanu-El project is a testament to the role great spaces play in advancing the spirit of all the people that meet within them and we are honored to be part of that legacy.”

Construction on the place of worship is slated to begin this summer.


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