Restoring a synagogue sustainably in Kos, Greece

Restoring a synagogue sustainably in Kos, Greece

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Sanctity in circularity? How Jewish historical past and sustainable practices meet in Greece at this time. Kos Island, Greece. A sustainable synagogue transform by Israeli-Greek architect Elias Mesinas.

The phrase Ecology combines two Greek phrases: oikos (οίκος, which means ‘home’ or ‘dwelling place’) and logos (λόγος, which means ‘the research of’). It describes how organic methods stay various and productive over time.  To obtain this, we have to hold supplies in cycles of reuse, and cut back the necessity for brand new extractions and the manufacturing of waste.

Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart of their revolutionary guide ‘Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’ (2002) current the way to undertake a circular economy mannequin by design and science. Their work and examples of round practices in structure and trade, are introduced within the 2002 documentary movie ‘The Next Industrial Revolution’ by administrators Shelley Morhaim and Christopher Bedford.

The development sector performs an essential position within the financial system. In Europe, it generates virtually 10 % of GDP and gives 20 million jobs. It additionally requires huge quantities of assets, producing greenhouse fuel emissions in materials extraction, manufacturing, transportation and development. It is estimated at 5-12% of complete nationwide greenhouse fuel emissions. Here I write about the problem with deep sea mining for concrete

Kos Island, Greece. A sustainable synagogue remodel

In phrases of waste, development and demolition waste quantity to about 35% of complete waste era, and about 50% of all extracted supplies. In Europe, development and demolition waste recycling is about 50%, though some EU nations recycle as much as 90%. Circular financial system within the EU is a rising sector with round 4 million jobs.

General view of Kos city: Elias Messinas Architect © 2023

The EU – and the remainder of the world – aiming in the direction of 50% discount of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero greenhouse fuel emissions by 2050, with a purpose to attain the Paris dedication of protecting a worldwide temperature rise nicely beneath 2 levels Celsius in comparison with pre-industrial ranges. 

The development sector requires daring strikes by architects and designers to adjust to this world purpose. Not solely in the direction of decreasing greenhouse fuel emissions of manufacturing new supplies, however decreasing waste manufacturing and unlawful disposal of development waste in nature, as nicely. 

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust. Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Circular practices – reuse of supplies, reuse of development waste, constructing supplies disassembly, supplies passport, city mining for supplies and others – are the way in which to go (see Rotterdam). Design for product and supplies reuse and upcycling. To attain these formidable objectives one wants to start out small and develop. Like the inside restoration mission for the synagogue Kahal Shalom, on the island of Kos within the Aegean sea, in Greece. A small mission aligning with a worldwide ambition.

Inspired by main architects on round practices in Europe, equivalent to Superuse studio and Rau Architects, this mission explores the frequent floor between historic analysis, restoration and sanctity.

Applying Jewish legal guidelines in upcycling

According to Halakhah (Laws guiding Jewish life), based mostly on the sanctity hierarchy of the Temple of Jerusalem, sanctity of a synagogue and its liturgical objects, requires upcycling. For instance, a easy closet may be became an Aron Hakodesh, however not the alternative. Also, a easy desk may be became a Bimah. In a magical means, the reuse of those objects, based mostly on a round financial system precept, raises their sanctity. These objects grow to be on the similar time extra holy and the mission extra ecological. In different phrases, sanctity meet ecology on the Greek island of Kos.

The island of Kos is positioned within the Dodecanese complicated within the japanese Aegean, close to the coast of Turkey, close to the island of Rhodes. It is named the island of Hippocrates, the ‘father’ of drugs, who was born in Kos in 460 BCE. The island was below Italian rule from 1912 till 1943 and below German occupation between 1943 and 1945. In 1948, Kos and the Dodecanese, have been included to the Greek State.

The Nazis virtually worn out the Jewish inhabitants of Kos, which have been about 150 individuals on the time. The synagogue was deserted for an extended time frame till 1984, when the municipality determined to purchase it and use it as a cultural centre. As the variety of Israeli vacationers elevated, the municipality determined to show the constructing right into a synagogue once more and restore it. The solely downside was that there have been no authentic paperwork on what the unique home of worship seemed like. Image by Elias Messinas.

In early 2022, with the rise of Israeli tourism on the island, the Municipality of Kos noticed the necessity for a functioning synagogue to serve the rising demand for companies and ceremonies. Until then, the choice could be the close by synagogue Kahal Shalom in Rhodes. 

The synagogue Kahal Shalom in Kos, was designed in 1935 by Italian architects Armando Bernabiti and Rodolfo Petracco, and constructed by the Italian agency “De Martis-Sardelli”, within the Italian Colonial fashion. Kahal Shalom synagogue was erected after the earlier synagogue of 1747 was destroyed within the earthquake of April 1933, which destroyed many of the island.

Eathquake at Kos

Earthquake at Kos, picture: GEODIFIS webpage

The Nazis made the Jews abandon their holy web site

The synagogue functioned till the Nazis arrested, deported and annihilated the Jewish group in July 1944. After Liberation the synagogue was deserted. In 1984 it was endangered with demolition. The Municipality, took a daring step and bought the synagogue to protect it as a cultural and exhibition corridor. In 2022, in collaboration with the Central Board of Jewish Communities, a choice was made to revive the inside of the synagogue to serve, in a mixed-use, as a synagogue and a cultural heart. Thus, serving vacationers through the vacationer and vacation season, and the area people throughout the remainder of the 12 months.

I’m an architect and knowledgeable within the structure, historical past, and restoration of Greek synagogues who undertook the restoration design and have been researching and documenting Greek synagogues for over 30 years. Since 2016, with my group of native knowledgeable architects, we’ve got efficiently restored the Monastirioton central synagogue and Yad LeZikaron synagogue in Thessaloniki (with KARD Architects D. Raidis and A. Kouloukouris), the Yavanim synagogue in Trikala (with Petros Koufopoulos), and are advancing the development of a protecting roof over the mosaic of an historic Romaniote synagogue on the island of Aegina, courting from the 4th century CE (with engineer Argyris Chatzidis).

I additionally seek the advice of the Ministry of Culture in Greece, in the direction of the enrichment of the official Archaeological Registry with greater than 300 new entries of Jewish monuments and websites all through Greece.

Kos upcycling

The Kos synagogue, exterior

The restoration of the synagogue was based mostly on analysis on Italian synagogues – together with the Patras synagogue (1917) furnishings on show on the Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens, and the synagogue Conegliano Veneto (1701) on the Museum of Italian Jewish Art in Jerusalem. The synagogue design was additionally based mostly on round practices, primarily, by the reuse of present furnishings as a approach to elevate their sanctity, and cut back waste within the course of. In addition, the mission was each extra economical and quicker to implement.

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Views of wood desk and BIMAH: Evangelia Tsiaousi

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Views of BIMAH: Evangelia Tsiaousi

The design course of in a nut shell: as soon as the fee proceeded, the preliminary try of the architect was to order furnishings from one of many synagogue furnishings suppliers in Israel. As the furnishings was produced in Ukraine, the Russian invasion made supply schedules unpredictable. Further, the entire value was past the set price range. The architect then tried to search out present historic furnishings to reuse from demolished synagogues in Greece, Turkey, Italy and the US. Once this feature was exhausted unsuccessfully, the architect recommended utilizing present furnishings: an workplace closet for the Aron Hakodesh and an previous wood workplace desk for the Bimah.

The furnishings, initially in use and in storage on the places of work of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, was recruited for the duty. For the transforming of present furnishings, the architect additionally consulted with the Chief Rabbi of Thessaloniki Aaron Israel, who confirmed the transforming as Halahically acceptable so long as the sanctity of the furnishings was upward: from common furnishings to synagogue sacred furnishings, and never the alternative.

Views of wooden desk and BIMAH: Evangelia Tsiaousi 

Views of wood desk, Evangelia Tsiaousi

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Based on detailed reworking drawings, the carpenter Manos-Tsiaousi Co. based mostly in Serres – NE of Thessaloniki, was chosen for the implementation. An area contractor undertook some gentle work to reinforce the inside restoration. The work was accomplished in lower than 4 months, and practically half the price of ordering new furnishings. The synagogue was prepared on time for the summer time vacationer season for the island, and was formally re-dedicated in July 2023.

Today, this small synagogue of 124 sq. m. sanctifies the round observe of reusing present furnishings in essentially the most profound means. It applies the ideas of sustainability in a non secular constructing, equivalent to a synagogue, and in consequence not solely sanctifies the area and furnishings, nevertheless it additionally protects ecology and aligns human exercise to the restrictions of the planet, as nicely. 

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Views of Jewish cemetery: Elias Messinas Architect © 2023

The synagogue Kahal Shalom is open for visits and companies. NGO ‘Ippokratis’, whose places of work are positioned within the former rabbi residence adjoining to the synagogue, may be contacted concerning repairs and go to to the synagogue. The Greek guide “Kahal Shalom: The synagogue of Kos” by Messinas was printed on the event of the completion of the mission, to totally current the historical past of the synagogue and the method of restoration. An English translation of the guide is in preparation.

Using circular practices, Israeli-Greek sustainable architect Elias Messinas renovated a Greek island synagogue on Kos. It hasn’t been used since the Holocaust.

Elias Messinas has written about guide in regards to the renovation mission. It may be downloaded in a PDF file. English to observe within the coming months. Architectural drawing of entrance facade: Elias Messinas Architect © 2023

Link to Messinas, E. 2023. “Kahal Shalom: The synagogue of Kos”, Kos in Greek (links to PDF)


Elias Messinas is a Yale-educated architect, city planner and writer, creator of ECOWEEK and Senior Lecturer on the Design Faculty of HIT, the place he teaches sustainable design and coordinates the brand new SINCERE EU Horizon program, which goals to supply the instruments for optimizing the carbon footprint and power efficiency of historic buildings, by using modern, sustainable, and cost-effective restoration supplies and practices, power harvesting applied sciences, ICT instruments and socially modern approaches.