Marseille - Tiferet Israel Synagogue
The first reflections for the construction of an Israeli temple began in 1967 with a rapidly abandoned hypothesis of reconversion of an old cinema. The choice of the Sainte-Marguerite district corresponds to a strong presence in the sector of the Jewish religious community since the repatriation of the French from Algeria. In 1967 the decision was made, unusual in the practices of the community more inclined to reuse existing buildings, to build a relatively modest building on a plot of about thousand square meters. The program distinguishes two main elements: the place of worship itself with its annexes allowing meetings and the celebration of ceremonies, and a school for learning the Hebrew language. The building, dependent on donations from the community, will be built in two phases.
Often installed in converted buildings, Israeli temples do not take up typological models elaborated and experienced in an ancestral tradition. However, there are some spatial conventions that meet the rules of the liturgy. Here, two strong volumes, parallelepiped and truncated pyramid – distinguished by the caesura of the main access axis – express the two main functions of the building, Talmudic school and place of worship.
For the latter, the choice of a square plan of sixteen meters of side, suits the device of worship centered on the officiant. A diagonal axis towards Jerusalem (here to the east) corresponds to the positioning of the Hijal. It is marked by the steeper inclination of two facades, the angle of which is treated as a slit of light, and the positioning of two zenithal lighting sources. A band of peripheral light gives the roof, consisting of a mesh strongly marked with concrete beams, a canopy appearance. This roof structure supports the four self-supporting, inclined concrete walls and supports a suspended mezzanine that occupies two sides of the interior space halfway up. It is here that women, apart from men, attend the service.
The outer skin of the building is made of raw concrete, with an accentuated play of alternating bands in relief and hollow. The masses are deliberately simple and archetypal. The volume reserved for the Talmudic school distinguishes a largely transparent ground floor from the floor more closed and scanned by full volumes cantilevered. This suitable austerity of the exterior is tempered inside by the use of veneer stone and wood.
The stone underlines the elegance of a cross-section column structure. The wood is reserved for the marking of thresholds (main entrance, access to the place of worship, etc.) designed as organs, with more rounded lines, which come to fit in the large basic volumes; and also in generous sections, for furniture, sober and dignified, designed specifically for the building.
The architect Fernand Boukobza studied at the Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Marseille while working in parallel in the workshops of André Devin and André-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac.
The latter’s teaching and visits to the Le Corbusier Housing Unit during the construction site gave him a taste for concrete that a generation would share. Sensitive to American modernity and the plastic experiments of Richard Neutra and Marcel Breuer, Fernand Boukobza will have the opportunity to express his talents in Marseille and in the region thanks mainly to the private project management: many villas including the famous twin houses of Talabot Park (1964), Le Brasilia building, in the immediate vicinity of the Radiant City, with developer-builder Georges Laville (1967), set of offices for IBM (1970), etc.
The Henri Habib Technical Design Office and the Mouis General Enterprise took part in the synagogue operation.
The project is led successively by the Israelite Religious Association of Marseilles, and the President of the consistory. After the death of the latter, during the works, Marcel Guenoun, former prefect of Algeria, will take over. The rabbis intervene shortly before the delivery of the building, when the architect specifies some essential elements of the furniture: Teba (tribune of the rabbis) and Hijal (pavilion containing the holy scriptures).
Many interior modifications demanded by the evolution of the program and users, and not followed by the architect, have somewhat altered the original arrangements (partitions, new lighting, replacement of the original Teba with sober lines, etc.). On the outside, the building is part of a relatively heterogeneous context that has not changed much. It is necessary to point out the unfortunate positioning at the angle of the pyramid of a billboard.
Heritage of the 20th Century by the Regional Heritage and Sites Commission of the CRPS 28 November 2000