See my answer to this M.Y. question.

My follow up question - Are the rules applicable to only a "formal" bet Knesset, i.e. a building established as such? Or is it dependent on the presence of an ark? For example, if one is in a shiva home and there is an ark present there for the week, would one have to walk out sideways?

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    Are the rules applicable to an aron kodesh, or is it for the sifrei Torah inside? – ezra Nov 29 '17 at 4:38
  • @ezra That's an interesting nuance. I don't think an empty aron has any kedusha when it is empty. Thus, I don't believe that one would fall on the face for tachanun if he were in a shul that had an empty aron. The problem, of course, is that most of the time they are closed and covered, so you may not know. – DanF Nov 29 '17 at 14:22

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