COCA St Louis, formally B’nai Amoona Synagogue

‘The inside is exactly as I envisioned it, light—day and night—perfect.’

The first American project by German-Jewish modernist architect Erich Mendelsohn, a synagogue in the centre of St Louis, Missouri. Completed in 1950, it was home to the B’nai Amoona community for thirty years and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.



Erich Mendelsohn first came to the attention of the community’s elders when the architect’s photographs and drawings were featured in an exhibition at the St Louis Art Museum. It was the meeting of two minds; Mendelsohn was experimenting with designs for modernist synagogues, producing hundreds of sketches. He planned seven synagogues for the Midwest; ultimately, four were completed, B’nai Amoona leading the way, followed by Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights in Ohio, Mount Zion Temple in St Paul, Minnesota and Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. B’nai Amoona was completed in Mendelsohn’s lifetime. That body of work had an indelible influence on post-war American synagogue design. 


The community moved out of the building in the mid-80s, and developer Richard D. Baron repurposed it sensitively as a community centre and new home for the performing arts, COCA, Center of Creative Arts.


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