Kent Bloomer began his career in architectural ornament with the design of two portals in the 1960’s and early seventies at a time when ornament had been banished from contemporary architecture. Portal art has its origins in classical and medieval architecture, and like its ancient counterparts, Bloomer’s bas-relief sculpture for the Temple Rodef Shalom is an integral part of the architecture. The Rodef Shalom piece is fabricated of shell concrete, and its organic forms manipulate light and shadow to create a serene wave pattern, appropriate for a place of worship. The curves compress as they get closer to the top of the roof implying both visual and spiritual ascendancy.
The entrance portal of the Architects’ Building inherits its basic scheme from the Rodef Shalom sculpture, but the wave forms are pattern-like and exist within a framed opening. Perhaps befitting a New York building, the forms are more graphic, referencing the streamlined curves of nearby Art Deco skyscrapers. Both portals illustrate Bloomer’s early ambition to integrate sculpture into architecture.
Portal: Temple Rodef Shalom, Pittsburgh, commissioned in 1965
Architects’ Building and Temple Rodef Shalom