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Authenticity in Material Selection

In architecture, shape and materials are the tools of authenticity.  Shapes can mirror the surrounding architecture or landscape, and materials echo the environment and even the building’s purpose.  Wood is a frequent go-to material when buildings are asked to reflect sustainability as an important part of the building.  Case in point is Field Architect’s wood-clad Bay area synagog Kol Emeth featured in Architectural Record (August 2022).

Architect Stan Field explains: Much of the project’s authenticity has to do with truth in materials—interpreted here in raw wood, steel, and stone. And the design is also genuine in its response to a difficult site, to the nature of its environment, and to its purpose as a spiritual center.

A bowed canopy made of wood slats drapes over the main sanctuary of the Kol Emeth Synagogue. Photo © Joe Fletcher

A lattice made from 2,200 pieces of salvaged timber runs along the west facade of the synagogue (1). The main sanctuary looks onto a courtyard and a social hall beyond that (2). Photos © Joe Fletcher

The lattice’s saved-from-landfill wood also serves as a symbol of the project’s sustainability. Kol Emeth is a LEED Platinum, net zero–energy building that uses no potable water for irrigation.

Project Credits

Field Architecture — Stan Field, Jess Field, design principals

Architect of Record:
EID Architects

Lea and Braze (civil); Mar Structural Design (structural); Fard Engineers (m/e/p)

General Contractor:
Smith Hyder Construction

Loisos + Ubbelhode (lighting); Charles M. Salter Associates (acoustical); Green Building Services (LEED commissioning); GLS Landscape | Architecture (landscape); Spearhead (fabrication)

Congregation Kol Emeth

17,850 square feet aboveground; 41,500 square feet belowground parking


Completion Date:
June 2020


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