Posted in projects on April 24, 2014 5:37 pm EDT

Expanding for the Future

Philadelphia's Congregation Rodeph Shalom's renovation delivers a beautiful space to display historic elements for a growing future.

A view from Broad Street shows the future addition on the building's south side. It includes a community room at the corner of Broad and Green Streets that is clad in 18-foot translucent channel glass. © KieranTimberlake/Studio











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TAGS: design, new build,


By Church Designer Staff

Philadelphia’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom broke ground at the end of 2013 on a significant new addition and renovation to its historic home. Founded in 1795, Rodeph Shalom is the oldest Ashkenazic congregation in the Western Hemisphere. Its current synagogue building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by Philadelphia architecture firm Simon & Simon and completed in 1928. It is an outstanding example of Byzantine revival and art deco architecture, featuring a limestone-clad exterior and a lavish interior with elaborate marble flooring, entryway mosaics, and hand-painted decorative stenciling.

It is conceived as a beacon, illuminating the corner of Broad and Green Streets at night and activating the surrounding neighborhood.

With a rapidly growing congregation, Rodeph Shalom needed additional meeting space, enhanced connectivity and accessibility throughout the building, and greater presence for the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art housed within its walls. The four-story addition on the building’s south side provides a new accessible entrance with direct connections to all religious, educational, meeting and social spaces. Organized by a new lobby, the program for new and renovated spaces includes a community room with an adjacent courtyard for events; rabbinical and administrative offices; classrooms for an expanded early education program; and an expanded contemporary art gallery that links to the historic Thalheimer Lobby and its displays of Jewish artifacts. The new community room will be clad in 18-foot translucent channel glass, allowing ample natural light to flow into the space. It is conceived as a beacon, illuminating the corner of Broad and Green Streets at night and activating the surrounding neighborhood. The addition makes use of precast panels of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) designed to complement the existing limestone and brick cladding. A stair and elevator tower that rises to the fourth floor resolves circulation issues while carefully retaining light and view for the stained glass windows on the south side. An entry loggia will include columns clad in bronze and mosaic tile, references to the rich detailing on the Broad Street face of the original building.

A new landscape plan for the entire block will transform the site. A newly landscaped stretch along Green Street redefines the campus, offering a welcome to visitors and serving as a stormwater infiltration zone to manage runoff. A cluster of bald cypress trees with a diagonal pathway to the building will stand at the corner of Broad and Green Streets, filtering light and views to and from the new community room. The cascading limbs of a large weeping willow tree soften the atmosphere in the enclosed courtyard and complete the landscape ensemble.

The project also includes enhancements to thermal efficiency, exterior circulation, wayfinding, security, and life safety. The design is respectful of the historic significance of the existing building and flexible enough to accommodate Rodeph Shalom’s continued growth and evolution as a regional center for Jewish life.

For more information about Rodeph Shalom (visit link) or Kieran Timberlake (visit link)


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