Makie, Kamrath and consultants: Temple Emanu El (1957)

As I’ve been noting here over several articles, the local connection with the Prairie School of architecture is strong, thanks in large part to Karl Kamrath’s “conversion” to the movement shortly after World War II ended. Although he was already a practicing architect, his meetings with Frank Lloyd Wright changed his direction, and with it the look of Houston and other cities.

In the late 1940’s Congregation Emanu El in Houston needed a new home and a congregation member named Lenard Gabert had an ambitious idea for a synagogue constructed in the shape of a Star of David hundreds of feet in diameter. The architecture firm contracted to render the design to scale, elevation and code was Mackie and Kamrath, and over the next ten years segments of the property began to take shape. Cantilevered awnings, integrated tracery leading from planters to walls to ceilings and other Prairie School details revealed Karl Kamrath’s design participation, and perhaps other comment. To that end, at some point Frank Lloyd Wright became aware of the progress on the building and was shown the building in person by Kamrath shortly after its completion. Wright was in town to receive a lifetime achievement award from the American Institute of Architects and was staying with Kamrath at his house on Tiel Way in River Oaks, which still exists. And at the conclusion of the tour of the completed synagogue, Wright stated to Kamrath and the tour group that he was presenting the building with his personal stamp of approval.

Here’s a view of the main facade at the synagogue’s web page:

https://emanuelhouston.org/temple_tour1

Local and professional publications continue to take note as well:

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fka15

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Temple-Emanu-El-5930803.php

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/apl/personal-library-karl-kamrath

The relationship with Mr. Wright is detailed in Scott Reagan Miller’s masters’ thesis for his architecture degree at Rice University, which has been placed online here:
https://scholarship.rice.edu/handle/1911/13763

(Current pictures of the structure are not used in this article so as not to interfere with any security arrangements that may have been added later.)

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