Renovations to the Rodeph Sholom Lower School transformed the first and second floors of its 1960s era, Brutalist style building with a dynamic façade renovation, a new entrance and lobby, a library, an art room, and offices. Unifying the work is a projecting sculptural canopy, fabricated of formed metal, which frames the new entrance and provides shelter at street level, and then wraps around the large windows of the new second floor spaces. The façade renovation, which responds to both the institutional scale of the building and individual scale of the students, establishes the street presence of the school and provides a welcoming experience for students and families. 

The project entailed replacing a second floor entrance to the building, accessible by a steep stairway, with a glazed, accessible entrance at ground level. The new metal canopy extends across the width of the building and frames new limestone cladding on the façade’s first story, referencing the limestone fabric of  Congregation Rodeph Sholom Temple, connected to the school by the rear yard. The canopy’s bold form imparts a dynamic, contemporary dimension to the building, and the metal and limestone materials lighten up its red brick facade.

The new glass entry system incorporates a series of security components including a secured vestibule and welcome desk before opening into a spacious lobby. Inside, the choreographed entry sequence connecting the lobby to the library, synagogue and school offices is designed to display the school’s pedagogy and values to families. Light colors and finishes offset the existing low ceilings and children’s art is featured throughout. The new library is a warm, bright environment lined with maple wood and bookshelves that correspond to the height of the children. The canopy provided the opportunity for a oversized window seat, which projects past the face of the building to provide a view of nearby Central Park. The art room, designed with light, bright finishes, provides a vibrant and flexible environment. Ample storage and display spaces are supplemented by commodious work surfaces, and the room’s lightweight furniture can be arranged for group or individual art making projects.

Photography: ©Charles De Vaivre