“…..the design of a building with a spiritual agenda, fundamentally intended to elevate the spirit, is a profound task for any architect….”
Founded on diversity, tolerance and transparency, the Emanuel Community in Woollahra is the most rapidly growing liberal Jewish congregation in the Southern Hemisphere. The original heritage listed Synagogue on the site accommodating 1200 worshippers was built in 1940 and will be retained, whilst the redevelopment Masterplan provides a new 700 seat sanctuary and childcare centre (Stage 1), a new forecourt over an underground car park (Stage 2) as well as new offices for clergy including library and teaching centre (Stage 3). The new 700 seat sanctuary and child care centre will be integrated into the site with the existing building in a way which allows the old building to maintain its independence while the new lightweight addition is equally clearly expressed. An elevated courtyard between the two buildings is a glass roofed crush space for congregants to gather for celebrations and festivals and where the new and old buildings can be experienced and interpreted. The new sanctuary is a serene intimate space with natural light and ventilation (supplementing forced air) carefully controlled via upper-level skylights, clerestory lighting and screened windows. Internally, the material palette is porcelain stone flooring and plywood linings perforated where necessary to provide a very responsive acoustic environment for the spoken word and music. The lightweight steel wall and roof structure is an expressed tapered diagrid which utilises minimal material to achieve strength and stiffness. Underlying the intent of the project is a desire to create a joyous building in harmony with the external environment which is a precinct to support transcendence, prayer and communal celebration.