Three and a half years after the worst antisemitic attack on U.S. soil, survivors of the attack, victims’ family members and community leaders are unveiling the design concept for a reimagined Tree of Life. Designed by Studio Libeskind, in collaboration with Rothschild Doyno Collaborative of Pittsburgh.
The reimagined approximately 45,000 sq. ft. building at the corner of Shady and Wilkins Avenues in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood will house a new national institution encompassing a museum, center for education and a planned memorial honoring the 11 people from three congregations – Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, New Light Congregation and Congregation Dor Hadsash – killed in the attack on October 27, 2018.
Studio Libeskind conducted listening sessions with members of the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha congregation, the victims’ families and survivors, and local community members to understand their hopes and needs for the building. The design is sensitive to its context in the historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood, while rebuilding a re-imagined Tree of Life, one that affirms the light and optimism of the human spirit.
“My response to the attack on 10/27 is to create a space imbued with Jewish ideals. The design focuses on the key Jewish dimension of bringing light into darkness and creating an open and democratic space within,” said architect Daniel Libeskind, who was selected last year as the lead architect for the reimagined building. “The Tree of Life will be a place that affirms Jewish life and sees it as a conduit of healing for the community and beyond.”
Central to Libeskind’s design concept is the “Path of Light,” a dramatic skylight that will run the entire length of the building. The glazed volume will welcome all visitors and usher in light to all the spaces and create a main axis that connects a series of programmatic spaces for the various needs of the institution. Along the “Path of Light” will be a museum, a space for reflection and remembrance called the Space of Memory, and a modernized sanctuary for worship and communal events.
“The Path of Light will bring a sense of optimism and hope to all the spaces within the Tree of Life, while creating the flexible and much needed spaces to realize their mission of inspiring people of all backgrounds and faith to unite against hate in our society,” said Libeskind. Historic building elements, including the beloved stained glass windows depicting the intertwined stories of American and Jewish history, will be preserved.
The design also maintains the iconic limestone facade of the building. Rooted in the belief that eliminating antisemitism will reduce other forms of identity-based hate, the new Tree of Life will include a museum that tells the story of that day as well as the roots of and ongoing phenomenon of antisemitism. It will also be an incubator for new ideas to counter antisemitism and provide educational opportunities and curricula that inspire, prepare and empower people to join the movement against identity-based hate.
“I will forever be grateful for the wellspring of love that continues to flow over and through our community from all parts of the world to take the horror of 10/27, and create something beautiful that changes our country and our world,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived the attack and serves as the honorary chair of the REMEMBER. REBUILD. RENEW. campaign supporting the new Tree of Life. Source and images Courtesy of Studio Libeskind.