Kol Shalom asked that their home be humble, inspirational, and connected to nature, with a strong emphasis on green architecture. These themes shaped the structure and were referenced throughout the process.
The building with sanctuary space, administrative offices, classrooms, bathrooms, catering kitchen and support services, is designed with the anticipation of future expansion for an enlarged sanctuary space and social hall, as well as a second level of classrooms.
The project was built in two phases. Phase 1: social hall, clergy administration wing, restrooms and school offices. Phase 2: school wing and sanctuary.
The form came out of the desire to incorporate two concepts: protection and welcoming. The exterior masonry walls enclose that which is hidden inside, protecting it from the outside. The custom masonry inset panels recall Jewish holidays that are connected to nature. The variation in the texture of the masonry walls and strip windows play off of the velocity of the movement on the adjacent road. Their height responds to the scale of the neighborhood.
In contrast, the main entry arch welcomes with a form recognizable to worshipers as it recalls the shape of the Hebrew letter ה, representing the name of God. The main doors are decorated with a bronze Tree of Life pattern. A custom Hebrew letter pattern covers the glass walls between the entrance and masonry wings.
The sanctuary is an open, tranquil space, where the 15-foot high ceilings and full height windows allow light in, connecting the space to the wooded area at the back of the site. The ark, a main feature of any sanctuary housing the holy prayer scrolls, is a17-foot -wide cantilevered structure with stained glass sliding doors. The imagery, commissioned by the congregation, recalls nature.
The project has achieved LEED Gold certification. Some of the major elements incorporated into the design include a geothermal well system, green roof, and views to the outside and continuous insulation outside of the exterior wall framing to reduce thermal bridging.
In 2015, Kol Shalom was awarded the Award of Excellence in the Institutional Category by the American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia. Other accolades include the 2014 Rockville Environmental Award.