Founded in 1886, the Jewish Theological Seminary is one of the premier Jewish institutions in the United States. The spiritual and academic center selected us to design a new building for its historic Morningside Heights campus to both consolidate its campus and to foster deeper collaboration with its neighbors, the city and the broader global community.
The existing 1929 building is situated in a dense urban setting flanked by housing to the north and a concentration of other academic institutions such as Columbia University, Barnard College, and the Manhattan School of Music.
The new building was conceived as a porous campus breaking down the density and inward focus of the existing building. Part of the existing outdoor courtyard has been enclosed to create a light filled space which will be an active center of gathering for both students and visitors. A new auditorium and library are entered from this space to encourage access to a once impenetrable building.
This sky-lit centrally-located light court welcomes visitors, students and faculty and provides flexible forum space to sit, relax, and orient themselves to the other elements of the campus. The 7,000 sf space can be used for lectures, religious services, and graduation overlooking the central garden.
From the light court, visitors can access a 200 seat auditorium and new JTS library. The library will include both circulating and special collections holdings, as well as spaces for collaborative and individual study. A state of the art climate controlled special collections storage facility will hold JTS’s renowned collection of rare Judaica books, manuscripts, and scrolls.
The academic lower floors are topped by five stories of dormitories. The residence hall will house up to 144 beds for undergraduate students as well as apartments for JTS student advisors, communal kitchens, dining areas, student lounges, and laundry facilities. A student run “Moadon” space bathed in light and open to outdoors allows students space to meet, stage performance, discussion, host events and connect to all elements of the campus.
The new structure facilitates a sense of cohesion, openness, and collective spirit.