BKSK Architects transformative addition to the Sephardic Community Center in Brooklyn
The 100,000 sq ft new Sephardic Community Center on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, NY is a transformative expansion of its 30-year old original building. It is symbolic of the central role the building now plays in the surrounding neighbourhood as an inter-generational facility. It expands upon the first Center's stated mission to preserve and nurture the rich history and culture of the Sephardic Community, offers coherence to the Center's ever-widening program of educational, athletic and social services, and above all extends a legible, clear invitation to all for participation in community events.
The original 50,000 sq ft community center with its textured concrete and minimal fenestration was representative of its time, built with a circumscribed palette of durable and opaque materials. BKSK's design of the expanded Center involves subtle changes to the original main façade, a layered glass and masonry composition for the new wing, and a continuous canopy to yoke them all together.
The new complex now includes an additional street façade on a quieter residential street that further interprets the planar quality of the original building, and weaves an institutionally-scaled structure (gymnasium, preschool and community room) into the residential urban fabric. The deceptive simplicity of the exterior design only hints at the intricate programmatic puzzle of the interior.
The Center hosts activities and programs for all ages, including a gym, pool and spa; a 170-student preschool center; meeting spaces for a wide range of social groups and gatherings; a performance space; extensive administrative offices; and a celebratory space as a repository of cultural memory. An emphasis on spatial legibility extends a sense of welcoming order to the multi-story Heritage Hall entry lobby, from which the full range of activities becomes evident. The community's shared lineage has become a true centerpiece of the lobby, with hundreds of ancestral images sandwiched between layers of glass.