Architectural Design Services

Sukkah Soul is dedicated to creating meaningful forms and spaces inspired by text and sources. Our designs are built upon traditional ideas and research renewed with a delicate spiritual energy.
We offer architectural design services with the intent to enhance life and provide meaning and beauty in a compelling way.

Please feel free to call Susan to discuss your synagogue design project whether it is modest or large, simple or complex.
Since its inception in 1992, Susan's practice includes university, children's day care, zoo, community healthcare, education, retail, office, and religious projects.

The Kallah Arch: An experiment in reinvesting imagery

In Memory of my teacher, Dr. Eugene Mihaly, who taught me to think about beauty (Tiferet) in the center of the Sefirotic system.

I live in the city of arches, but it is a symbol so over-used here that I would never suggest it for a logo or a design. Not because it isn't profound, but because where I live, it is done.

In the Mediterranean design, it may be more interesting, even more accurate to translate sha’ar as arch rather than gate. The gate imagery is also a little tired for me, but that is what I came to do: make something new, a chiddush, out of something old.

The Secret of Shabbat

We moved the synagogue into a large space that once was a school. It has a series of smaller rooms off of one main room. We do concerts, teachings, prayers, yoga, meditation, dinners, dancing, in the large room. I looked at the room and remembered how Dr. Mihaly taught me to look at synagogue space: everything means something, inwardly and outwardly.

The welcoming of the Kallah, the Sabbath Bride, I had learned from my teachers, is a lofty concept. It is the return of the upper root of a person's holy soul, the integration of something that had been exiled at Creation (God separated the upper waters from the lower waters, as quoted by the Sefas Emes on Genesis) and this integration is what the Zohar referred to as Raza de Shabbat, the secret of Shabbat. The Secret of Shabbat is a midrashic introduction to Kabbalat Shabbat prayer in the old Sefardi nusach of the prayer book, and it was introduced to us as students by Dr. Mihaly.

We also reclaimed the Lecha Dodi, Come My Beloved, as the prayer we say just before we acknowledge our mourners, our grief. In the tradition, the mourners would stay out of the synagogue until they heard Lecha Dodi, then they would enter. It was a way of acknowledging both the separation of grief in time and a way of identifying who were the mourners in the community.

I wrote a poem, set it to music, to sing/speak to acknowledge our grief, just before the Kallah arrives, and one stanza follows:
            The holy the blessed, she is descending
            joining the upper root to the lower,
            the singular ner of Shabbat,
            the candle of Shabbat.

The Cosmic Wedding

In our former synagogue space, we had a joke: the Kallah/Bride entered from the east, through the kitchen door. It was funny and inelegant - such grand mythology, such a modest entryway. In our new space our architect/designer noticed that we had been released from the kitchen entry. Now the Kallah could enter in a loftier way. She suggested creating an appropriate entry for the Sabbath Bride, something dignified, imaginative, playful, clever, like our community.

She did her research. She took a look at the sources on the Kallah, the Shekhinah, its relation with the Community of Israel, and she imagined an interior architectural design that suggests the dreamy approach of Chagall.

She picked an entry between a wall and a column toward the east. We angled the Kallah archway, the ark placement, everything on the oblique line that was east. A Chagall image I found suggested a Cubist approach which helped the designer conceptualize the structure. We searched for a material and a jewelry artist in our group suggested beads.

We made an arch, a Kallah arch out of beads. The entire community sat together and strung beads for the sake of heaven. We gave birth to a new-old interior synagogal form, one I wish I could have shared with my teacher, who would have chuckled, and said, "good, my boy, yes, that's correct, of course, the Kallah arch. Beautiful," dripping words like honey.

The Kallah comes looking every Friday night for the holy integration of upper and lower, inner and outer, masculine and feminine, the imaginative return of Shabbes from the Exile of the week. With the imagery of cosmic marriage we sing the Kallah to her place. She needs not only a place to light, to live, but also a proper place to enter. She needs an archway made out of beads, something imaginative, something beautiful.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman
St. Louis

Reading Table, Ark, and Kallah Arch
The ensemble defines the worship area of the multi-purpose space and is oriented towards the east.

The reading table and Ark are custom millwork pieces with birch veneer and black plastic laminate bases.  Each is on casters so it can be relocated.

The Kallah arch is used to greet the Sabbath Bride.  The arch is made of glass beads strung by the congregation.  The text from Bialik’s poem The Sabbath Queen, “Behold she is descending, the holy the blessed” is painted on the wall in English and Hebrew.  Black plastic laminate pieces form the base of the column of text.

The same beads used at the Kallah arch surround the Ark with long strands of blue beads at each end suggesting a tallis. The glass pulls are by glass artist Jeri Changar. The ner tamid is by glass artist Sam Stang.

Jeri Changar, of blessed memory; artist, professor of art education, jewelry designer, bead maker. She looked at the arch forms mocked up with cardbard. Jeri said, "Beads!" And she led the congregation stringing beads. Everyone felt creative. May her memory be a blessing.