20 West End Ave, New York, NY 10023
The lobby at The Heschel School was conceived not as a transitional pass through space but rather as a place for people to come in and stay. It’s a place of engagement for both children and adults where extracurricular and informal activities become an integral part of the process of learning. As such, the lobby is very a generous double height space designed to have light flow from the east – where the early childhood kids can watch the lobby from their own protected outdoor playground – to the west – where the main entry to the school is located.
The southern end of the space if formed by the art wall which is based on the biblical phrase lech lecha, in which God commanded Abraham to leave his home to travel to the land of Canaan.
The common English translation of the phrase, “go forth”, is very different from the literal translation and meaning of the Hebrew words, which reads as “go to you”. Lech translates to “go” and lecha translates to “to you”. It is further enhanced by God’s triple request to Abraham, which increases with every word. First, he is asked to leave his country, then to leave his homeland, and lastly to leave his father’s house.
The idea of learning can be understood in the same way; the deeper one engages in the process of inquiring knowledge the further one can imagine and succeed in achieving individual goals and dreams. Thus, travel and journeys become a precise metaphor for the idea of learning and the mission of the school.
The wall is a superimposition of maps in two scales, describing the journeys of the Jews since the journey of Abraham to our present day.
One scale, of the time of antiquity, includes only the area of the Middle East and southern part of the Mediterranean Sea. This scale describes the journeys from Abraham until the destruction of the second temple in 70 AC and the exile that followed.
The second scale, from 70 AD to our time, shows a map of the entire world and the significant Jewish immigration waves of the last two thousand years.
The journeys are inscribed into sixty-four MDF panels. The journeys of the time of antiquity are painted in light blue and the ones of the modern era in dark blue. The journeys into the land of Israel are drawn as solid lines, and dashed lines describe the exiles and journeys away from the promised land.