Reunion with the Natural World

Beth Israel Memorial Chapel

Houston, TX

Outdoors in Houston

On the ceremonial occasion of a funeral, Beth Israel Chapel offers a rare, dignified encounter with the natural world – weather, seasons, the passage of time, breezes, birdsong. Sophisticated passive design techniques create a comfortable outdoor shelter and a tranquil sanctuary in Houston’s harsh heat and humidity.

A Complete Environmental Work

The design uses the principle of an “ice house roof,” two layers of light metal membrane with an interstitial air-space to capture prevailing breezes and lower ambient temperature. Acoustic design muffles and masks the sounds of a nearby freeway. Architectural features intensify the experience of rainfall and changing light.

Critical Response

“… a poetic building and landscape designed to … elicit understanding of God’s world through the senses and the mind. Even as they entrust a loved one to the earth, friends and relatives feel more alive as they occupy this cultivated work.” - Joseph Giovannini, Architecture Magazine

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