Frank Lloyd Wright’s Philadelphia Synagogue Depicts Spirituality Through Modern Architecture

Situated in a quiet suburb north of Philadelphia is Beth Sholom – the only synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright during the architect’s long and storied career. The building marks an epilogue of sorts: Wright designed the synagogue near the end of his life and died only months before its dedication in 1959.

“Wright was conscious of the fact that he was nearing the end of his life, and it was vital to him to bring to fruition architectural ideas he considered essential. It’s no coincidence that during that time he also designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York,” says Prof. Joseph Siry, a historian of architecture.

“He dreamed of a building along the lines of Beth Sholom throughout his career. I think that as people get closer to their death they think a great deal about what they’re leaving behind.”

The synagogue’s story is told in Siry’s 2011 book “Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture.” It’s a thick volume filled with hundreds of pictures and sketches that present Beth Sholom as the climax of Wright’s work on religious buildings. Siry also investigates the curious relationship between Wright and Rabbi Mortimer Cohen that spawned the avant-garde design.


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