South Hampstead Synagogue
Client: South Hampstead Synagogue
LPA: London Borough of Camden
This is the culmination of over three years' work by Boyer, Allies & Morrison and a team of consultants, and the rabbi and members of a passionate and thriving Jewish Community. It extends Boyer’s experience in working on community buildings.
The existing synagogue is a 1960s building that's inadequate for the wide-ranging community services South Hampstead Synagogue offers. Synagogues are traditionally much more than places of worship, they are centres of learning, socialising, support and care for a community. South Hampstead Synagogue is particularly proud of its record in providing these services not only to the local Jewish community but in the community in general. The current building stifles the community’s ability to fulfil these purposes. It is cramped and lacks accessibility, it has segregated men’s and women’s galleries for worship, and requires that spaces unsuitable for their purpose need to be used for various types of service.
The Synagogue had previously achieved permission to develop a new synagogue on a site nearby that belongs to Network Rail, but this was scuppered by HS2. The Synagogue was then forced to re-examine its own small site to provide for the community building.
While designated as detracting from the conservation area, is not entirely without architectural interest being an example by Lyons Israel Ellis (architects of the Grade II listed National Theatre Studio). Nevertheless an application to list the building was rejected by English Heritage.
The replacement building designed by Graham Morrison of Allies & Morrison is of exemplar design quality and will significantly enhance the Conservation Area and the respect the setting of nearby listed buildings. It will provide modern, multi-use spaces and enable the synagogue to teach its "cheder" (Sunday School) back on the site, within the community, rather than the children having to travel from Primrose Hill and South Hampstead to Parliament Hill each week.
The building would also provide space within the building for informal assembly after services which is something the existing building sorely lacks. The opportunity for congregants to mix and meet is integral to its purpose, but there is currently nowhere in the building for this to happen, so it often spills onto the street. A significant part of the uplift in the building’s floorspace (it increases by around 250%) would be to accommodate this meeting space.
The application had a very high public profile with over 1,000 letters sent in response to consultation. Camden’s Members were satisfied that concerns over intensification, transport and parking impacts, massing and design, basement excavation, and trees and were not significant, and that the clear and considerable public benefits outweighed the less than substantial harm to the setting of listed buildings.
Boyer wishes the South Hampstead Synagogue well in implementation and completion of the building.