PKSB Architects

West End Synagogue


West End Synagogue | NEW YORK, NY

Unable to afford a home of its own on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, West End Synagogue lived its first ten years in rented space. The congregation’s status went from tenant to homeowner when the city put an outgrown public library up for auction.

PKSB recognized that the library was an appropriate home for a religious group that sees itself as “Children of the Book” and values study as well as prayer. Thus, much of the library atmosphere has been retained in the new design. Yet the renovation introduces elements of liturgy and synagogue, giving the building a clear religious identity. 

The ark rests within a bronze paneled wall, which has been inserted into the original library bookcases. Mounted on the wall is a perch for the Torah making it dramatically visible during the service. At it sides are silk embroidered panels which continue the module of the adjacent casework.

At the rear a curved freestanding plaster wall encloses the sanctuary seating and marks the congregation’s Yahrzeits with individual bronze plaques. Each contains a small ledge upon which stones are placed to mark the actual anniversary. The area behind is for quiet study and small seminar groups.