PBDW Architects - The Moise Safra Center, a second home for the Jewish community
  1. Home
  2. Award 2022
  3. Public Space
  4. The Moise Safra Center, a second home for the Jewish community

The Moise Safra Center, a second home for the Jewish community

PBDW Architects

Public Space  /  Completed
PBDW Architects

Located on New York’s Upper East Side, the Moise Safra Center was envisioned as a second home for its young Jewish community. The building comprises a vertical campus of religious and community spaces, spread over in a vertical campus of 14 floors. The Center grows from a desire to provide a safe place for the pursuit of cultural, educational, and spiritual endeavors while creating a lively setting for social interaction and community engagement. Being a new institution, MSC did not have an established program, so we worked with them to define the building’s functional and operational goals. This inclusive process extended from the design phase into construction, as the Center hired staff and its program needs evolved. Maximizing program space was a key requirement for the client. We carefully stacked the building to take advantage of the allowable zoning envelope and located an additional two floors below grade. The resulting 65,000 sf building utilizes all available floor area on the site. Programmatically split between religious and community spaces, the building is organized vertically with religious spaces on the first 4 floors, and community spaces below and above the religious core. The Center required both specialized spaces, including an aquatic and fitness center, art and cooking classrooms, a dance studio, a half basketball court, as well as open flexible spaces that accommodate multiple uses through reconfigurable partitions. Every space is outfitted with advanced AV capabilities. For example, both the double height basketball court and banquet rooms can be transformed into an immersive theater experience with large projection screens, the pool can support a child’s birthday party in the overlooking lounge area,and the rooftop terrace can transform from noisy play-yard to a meditative outdoor yoga classroom. The modern design of the Center reflects the sensibilities of its members, young and forward thinking while at the same time honoring the traditions of their community. The outward expression of the building capitalizes on North and East facing primary exposures, flooding the main spaces with natural light. Warm terracotta panels and a series of monumental Jerusalem limestone-clad fins at the synagogue level acknowledge the context of a largely masonry neighborhood, and a contemporary interpretation of stained glass reveals itself from behind the fins, hinting at the religious space within. Harkening back to its spiritual roots, the client requested that Jerusalem limestone be used prominently. Starting with the carved round column at the building entry, and extending into the synagogue lobby, the limestone marks the religious spaces of the building. MSC desired two separate but related identities for the religious and community spaces. We took a holistic approach to interweave these two identities, starting with a common entry vestibule that opens into two distinct rooms. The community side welcomes you with a café and reception desk before orienting you to the myriad of program spaces offered on other floors. The synagogue lobby is entered through a series of ornate doors crafted from wood, bronze and colored glass that establish the palette employed throughout the religious spaces. The synagogue lobby is faced with limestone on three sides, extending up the stair that leads to the synagogue spaces above. Opposite is a backlit wall of veined white marble, laminated with glass to create a translucent screen to the community center lobby beyond. The synagogue lobby and stair, reflecting light from the Venetian plaster and honed limestone surfaces, lead members up to the double-height formal sanctuary and a smaller daily sanctuary with a generous attached library/study. The synagogue has a soaring ceiling and wraparound balcony yet is an intimate gathering space. Daylight activates the warm material palette of Jerusalem limestone and light wood, and introduces an immersive element of color that changes throughout the day. The formal design language that began on the exterior reaches its crescendo in the stone, bronze and colored glass ark which becomes the focal point of the space and guardian of the sacred scrolls within.


 New York
 Moise Safra Center
 PBDW Architects
 Ray Dovell, Anne Holford-Smith, Sean King, Mallory Shure, Ben Allen, Adelaide Palum, Taryn Cook, Daria Jurac Teplen
 Mc Gowan Builders
 Structural Engineer – Gilsanz Murray Steficek, LLP, MEP Engineer – AKF Group, LLC, Lighting Designer – One Lux Studio
 Shildan Group, terra cotta cladding, YKK and TPG, curtain wall, Bendheim, custom architectural glass, European Granite, Jerusalem Limestone
 James Ewing/JBSA


For more than 50 years, PBDW Architects has provided intelligent, critical, creative vision and solutions to a wide range of projects for educational, cultural, commercial, and residential clients. A collegial practice of partners, associates, and staff who consistently deliver award-winning and transformative designs, PBDW is led by partners James Seger, Anne Holford-Smith and Matthew Mueller, with Ray Dovell, Samuel White and Scott Duenow as consulting partners. The practice is collaborative, and benefits from the direct participation of all partners, each of whom contributes different expertise. Our projects express the character of the dynamic organizations we serve. We strive to be in harmony with their unique surroundings. This extends to the conscientious restoration of major historic landmarks, which we aim to synthesize with contemporary, technologically advanced designs. In all our work, we create original designs that both harmonize with and invigorate their surroundings.


Community Wish List Special Prize

Contribuisci con il tuo voto

Votazioni chiuse

#Mentioned #New York  #United States  #PBDW Architects 

© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054