It’s not surprising that the home of Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH), right on Hollywood Boulevard, was partially the work of a theater designer. The Spanish-style structure, completed in 1949, was a collaboration between architects Samuel Lunden, creator of the original Pacific Coast Stock Exchange building in Los Angeles, and S. Charles Lee, best known for his movie palaces. Grand in scale, with tiered seating for more than 1,400 congregants, TIOH’s main sanctuary is cavernous and inwardly focused, with sparse daylight filtered through small stained-glass windows. It’s a hierarchical arrangement, with the audience facing a stage, site of the altar, or bima, with its Torah scrolls and pulpit. The temple—where Martin Luther King spoke and Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism before marrying Eddie Fisher—tends to attract movieland luminaries, and still draws crowds in its main sanctuary for High Holy Days and big bar mitzvahs or weddings. But, by 2006, this progressive congre- gation felt a growing need to add a more casual, intimate, and participatory space for daily prayer.
The synagogue leadership turned to Koning Eizenberg Architects (KEA) to reshape its ungainly agglomeration of post-1949 additions and, ultimately, design a chapel as both a complement and antidote to the original building. In contrast to the staid older sanctuary, with its solidity, dramatically dim lighting, and seclusion from the outside world, the new chapel needed to be luminous and intimate, with a sense of openness to the outdoors. But before creating such a place, KEA had to carve out a context for it.