Beth Israel Memorial Chapel and Gardens

Completion/ 1997

Location/ Houston, Texas

Awards/ 2000 National Honor Award, ASLA; 1998 Religious Architecture Award, AIA; 1998 Merit Award, AIA California

This project, dedicated in 1997, consists of a three-acre cemetery, a 7,000 square foot open chapel, nineteen mausoleum structures, a 600 foot arbor, a 500 square foot pool with seasonal and mechanical fountains, a memorial wall, landscaping and on-site parking.

The project was an equal design collaboration between Gary Strang and Daniel Solomon, with Strang as architect and landscape architect, and Solomon as architect. The chapel–constructed of custom-poured and pre-cast concrete, CMU blocks, stainless steel, perforated anodized aluminum, and Honduran mahogany–is designed to accentuate one’s awareness of the cycles of nature. A sliver of light perceptibly moves against the thick concrete wall; the chapel is cooled by breezes which are allowed to penetrate the chapel and the cavity of the thick double insulated roof; and the 50”-100” of rain which falls on the roof each year is captured in a huge elevated concrete gutter that doubles as an entry portico. The water is then released into a seasonal pool that forms the backdrop for funeral services. The pool overflows into drainage lines that double as walkways and define the site’s layout. The problem of drainage and flooding in Houston becomes an opportunity to organize the site while offering mourners a heightened awareness of the seasons and the qualities of materials. This project won a 2000 Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects’ national chapter, a 1998 Religious Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects, and a 1998 Merit Award from the California Chapter American Institute of Architects.