Congregation Beit Simchat Torah Institutional
Complete 2017
Project Architect with Architecture Research Office

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is not only a synagogue in structure, but plays a valued civic and social role for chorus, activism, and, of course, worship. Within the tight constraints of a landmarked, former commercial building, we maximized shared space and versatile programmability, to bring as much impact to the space as its work brings to the community.

CBST relocated from a discreet location in New York’s Westbeth Artists building to a substantial landmarked Cass Gilbert Building in Chelsea. A Garment District staple, the space was originally designed as a handbag and fur store. Immediate challenges such as an impeding column grid, construction restraints, and limited access to light lent to inventive solutions that prioritized comfort, and accommodated spaciousness for the swelling congregation.

Unallowed to extend the building itself, we optimized its airspace by tearing down the upper-back wall and orienting it at an angled cant. This detail complemented skylights that were installed above, allowing natural light to cascade in, while illuminating the textured concrete wall and creating maximal visibility to the rabbi. At once artful and efficient, we leveraged the main column grid to also serve as the Ner Tamid, a symbolic menorah situated at the front of the synagogue.

As a community hub and the largest LGBTQ+-friendly synagogue in the world, the congregation deserved a building suited to its impact. The resourceful architectural solutions level-up the space, providing a worthy home to this much-loved institution.

This project was completed with Architecture Research Office.