Studio ST Architects’ renovation of the 94-year-old Ansche Chesed Synagogue revitalizes the space to encourage a greater sense of community and to accommodate twenty-first century needs. The main project challenge was redesigning the landmarked synagogue to make the spaces feel more contemporary yet reflective of the building’s past. Studio ST upgraded the functionality, aesthetics and security of the 1927 Romanesque-Byzantine synagogue while relating to its historic features.
The synagogue wished to increase the building’s security while maintaining a sense of an open and welcoming space. A new security office was created in the entry vestibule, and a lockdown system was installed in the main assembly areas. Custom bullet resistant dark wood and glass doors were designed as modern versions of the historic synagogue doors.
The project’s goal was to help the community grow and thrive by revitalizing the building and providing twenty-first century amenities. The lobby now includes a seating lounge with wood bleacher-style seating, new all-gender bathrooms, a large coat room and stroller parking. The original terrazzo floor of the lobby was restored and is complemented by matching new terrazzo in the expanded areas. The new office suite on the fifth floor provides a bright work environment with windows overlooking the Hudson River. By redesigning the basement level, Studio ST transformed the social hall (Hirsch Hall) and its annex, which is used during the weekdays as a gymnastics gym, into a simple yet beautiful space that can also accommodate Bar Mitzvahs, High Holiday services and communal events.
The design accommodates the needs of a wide range of user groups in the congregation, which has an older aging population and has also recently seen a big influx of younger families. Accessibility was another main goal, and a new elevator was added to allow people with mobility challenges to access the synagogue sanctuary, the upper and lower lobby on the ground floor, and the two basement levels.
With these modern-day upgrades, the renovation encourages moments of interaction and community, as well as chesed, or loving kindness, as a reflection of the synagogue’s namesake.