Cymbalista Synagogue by Mario Botta

Synagogue and Jewish heritage centre on the University Campus of Tel Aviv, Israel


All images, plans and text courtesy of Mario Botta. All photos by Pino Musi.

As a place of contemplation, of light and prayer as well as a place of community and discussion this Synagogue designed by  Studio Mario Botta has been published by editors and critics as an outstanding piece of contemporary architecture ever since its opening in 1998.

desMena is proud to present this project as part of our attempt not only to bring you the current concepts and latest designs for the Mena region, but also to feature great examples of our built environment and thus to develop a little portfolio or- if you like a design catalogue of the Mena-region.


Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Centre, Tel Aviv, Israel

“A place for prayer and a place for discussion – a synagogue and lecture hall, a place where
the religious and the secular can meet. This was the mandate, which I received from Paulette
and Norbert Cymbalista when they commissioned me to construct a new building on the
campus of Tel Aviv University. An appropriate site was chosen in consultation with the
university authorities in January 1996: a corner of the main lawn where large student
assemblies are held; this location would ensure that the new building would readily be
perceived as serving the students themselves.


In today’s world, architects rarely receive
commissions with goals as clear and precise as the ones in this project: to build two spaces
that are separate in function but unified in design and to express the need for spirituality that
is shared by all people. My concept of the project was helped not only by the clients’ clear
ideas about what they wanted, but also by their generosity. I am convinced that any project
resulting from such a mandate must be simple and powerful. The Cymbalistas specified that
the building has two connecting separate and distinct areas. As such, the design incorporates a
dual image of two towers linked by a ground floor lobby where the services are located. The
two squared-based foundations of the towers rise into a conoid, which then becomes a circle
at roof level. Both towers are constructed using the same materials – Pietra Dorata “gilded”
Tuscany stone inside, Verona stone outside – and both interiors are top-lighted in exactly the
same way. Thus, they generate identical geometrical spaces designed for different functions,
just as a two-headed creature presents a mysterious duality of possible meanings and
functions. However, the real themes – apart from the obvious functionality of the synagogue
and lecture-hall – are wholly architectural, in the sense that the intrinsic features of the spaces
themselves have absolute priority.


The sculpture-like exteriors and unusual proportions of the
two towers in relation to the service volume render them impressive, despite the fact that they
are actually quite small. The enigmatic, totem-like appearance of the structure challenges
users to ask what the building is communicating- as both a mirror of its times and a repository
of thousands of years of memories”.
Mario Botta








Cymbalista synagogue and Jewish heritage centre
University Campus of Tel Aviv, Israel
Administration and management:
University of Tel Aviv
Paulette and Norbert Cymbalista
Mario Botta
Marco Bonini, Davide Macullo, Maurizio Pelli
Local architect:
Arthur Zylberzac, Tel Aviv
Civil engineering: Shmaya Ben-Abraham, Tel Aviv
Lighting design: Dante Solcà, Lugano
1996 – 1997
1997 – 1998
Bearing structure: reinforced concrete
Façade cladding: blocs of Lessinia stone (Verona);
Interior walls cladding: slabs of pietra dorata (“gilded” stone from Tuscany)
Site area: 2720 m²;
Gross floor area: 800 m²;
Front square: 740 m²
Volume: 7325 m³
Lower square: 23.90 X 31.25 m, height 4.60 m
Cones diameter; 16.60 m, total height from the ground: 13.65 m.
The squares of the floor plan and the ceilings of the synagogue and the auditorium form a
perfect cube with all sides 10.5 m.
Main entrance north: 62 m²
Entrance south: 8 m² (with access to the parking)
Hall: 130 m²
Judaica Museum: 48 m²
Beth Hamidrash: 48 m²
Synagogue: 110 m²
Auditorium: 121 m²
Service rooms: 133 m²
Total net floor area: 660 m²

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