Text description provided by the architects. The 100,000 square foot 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 it now plays in the surrounding neighborhood 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, it offers coherence to the Center's ever-widening program of educational, athletic and social services, and above all it extends a legible, clear invitation to all for participation in community events.
The original 50,000 square foot community center with its textured concrete and minimal fenestration was representative of its time, built with a circumscribed palette of durable and opaque materials. The building was characterized by a simple massing strategy and overall sense of solidity. 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. A dialogue between the two is palpable, one that honors the building's long-standing social importance and makes the facility's striking evolution appear as inevitable.
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 gracefully 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.
Throughout the new and renovated areas a carefully wrought sense of coherence, an often- surprising visual connection between previously segregated functions, and the notable introduction of natural light to all circulation and informal gathering spaces has yielded a heightened sense of group interaction. An integral series of commissioned, site-specific artwork and unexpected furnishings that create areas of individual identity, support this building's bold vision of a mutually supportive community.