A seven-story townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side has been transformed to serve as a learning center for the Park Avenue Synagogue community.

The elegant and highly functional solution creates a bright, modern setting behind the building’s landmark façade. A full gut renovation of the 17,400 sf, 1912 Neo-Renaissance building realigns the floor levels and interior circulation for new uses. Large and small classrooms and meeting halls, a chapel, and a rooftop terrace and garden present highly flexible, multi-use spaces with oak wood detailing and oak cabinets for storage, as well as furniture sets of different scales. The building hosts morning, afternoon and evening classes, carefully choreographed to accommodate all ages and users.

From its spacious lobby, visitors pass through full-height glass and metal partitions to a central stairway flooded with daylight from a skylight above. Open and inviting, the circulation spine reinforces a sense of community and, with its installations at each mid-landing of stained-glass windows created for the synagogue in 1954 by artist Adolph Gottlieb, alludes to congregation’s rich history. A wood ceiling element wraps from the lobby into the stairs and to the chapel on the second floor, drawing visitors within.

Learning takes place indoors and also outdoors on two terrace areas. A large basement with resilient finishes and a colorful acoustic soffit surround offers a place for young children to play. New restrooms and a pantry are located within easy reach, and administrative offices are embedded in the building’s upper floors to support the educational mission and programs. Designed for easy navigation and to serve diverse users of all ages, the Learning Center is fully accessible.

Photos © Frank Oudeman