Judaica Reading Rooms, Smathers Libraries - CODAworx

Judaica Reading Rooms, Smathers Libraries

Submitted by Kenneth Treister

Client: University of Florida

Location: Gainesville, FL, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $300,000

Project Team



Kennith Treister


Mahogany, stained glass, Stainless Steel wire, plexiglass and acrylic on canvass.
The entire area of three large rooms and mezzanine


IN MY DESIGN, as both architect and artist for these reading rooms, I tried to combine a beautiful aesthetic with a genuine respect for the vast collection of Jewish manuscripts in the University of Florida’s large Library of Judaica.
This is a work of romantic architecture where I attempted to create a continuous flow of impressions that would positively affect the senses and also project the collection’s theme, Jewish literature and knowledge. This suite will be used for research, classes, seminars, lectures, and cultural events.
There are two unique features in this project. First, this is a holistic work—I designed the total interior art and architecture including the furniture, lighting fixtures, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, graphics, and integral ornamentation. There are twenty-three works of my art blended into the project’s three-room suite. Second, this is a thematic work. Where most public libraries, even the most beautiful, are neutral and bland of intellectual stimulation, these interiors reinforce the scholarly study of this rare collection of Jewish literature. Therefore this work is both “site specific” and “theme specific.”


The foyer contains One God, a stained-glass mural; Yahreit Candles, a wall sculpture; The Red Sea Parted, a sculpture of bronze and mahogany; and four paintings.
The Main Reading Room focuses on The Star of David painting; a mahogany holy ark holding the collection’s Torah; various works of furniture, that is, tables, chairs, and original light fixtures; and eight gold panels with carved quotations from Jewish scholars.
The Mezzanine contains six paintings representing the first six days of creation; four paintings entitled The Shema Tapestries; four sculptures: From Slavery to Freedom, Diaspora, Six Million Souls to Heaven, and The Jews Built Store Cities of Pithom and Raamses; and a chess collection of twelve rare sets.
The Seminar Room contains two of my paintings, The Seventh Day of Creation and The Garden of Eden, and a framed photograph from the author’s Holocaust Memorial entitled In Memory of the Six Million Jewish Victims of the Holocaust.