Edinburgh Synagogue + Jewish Cultural Centre




ARCHITECTURE: Future Building or Project


Dress for the Weather
Fiona Sinclair


The Edinburgh Synagogue was originally built in 1932 and designed by renowned architect, James Miller. It is a Category B listed building on Salisbury Road in Edinburgh and is quite unique to Miller’s built portfolio. Better known for his commercial buildings in Glasgow, such as the Anchor Line, and his railway buildings, such as Wemyss Bay station, Miller’s work here is somewhat heavier and more forbidding. 

The building is presently home to the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation. The brief emerged from the ambition to reimagine its home as a Jewish Cultural Centre, with space for worship for both the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation and the Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community.

Fiona Sinclair, Advanced Conservation Architect, asked Dress for the Weather to collaborate on the project. Fiona is providing conservation advice for the existing fabric and working with Dress for the Weather to develop contemporary interventions to adapt and extend. 

The project is a result of a series of ongoing collaborations between the two combining leading conservation practice and contemporary design. 

Our approach has been formed around key design drivers in response to the brief and the qualities (and deficiencies) of the existing building. In order to function as a cultural centre we believed the building needed a more welcoming, though still secure, main entrance. The extension to the front façade provides this and will welcome visitors on to a main avenue that cuts through the middle of the plan. The new entrance is formed of two ‘arches within arches’ that have been manipulated to form a discreet canopy. These forms celebrate and bring to the fore the wonderful arches within the main foyer which was originally white-washed. These forms also lighten the aesthetic of the heavy brick by pulling the softer elements of the interior out. 

The central avenue through the plan connects directly with a second extension to the rear of the building. Here, we have formed a new ‘sukkah’ - a room with a retractable roof and timber louvres - which is opened during the week-long festival of Sukkot. For the rest of the year this space forms an internal courtyard between two worship spaces - one for each of the faith groups - where the congregations can come together for community events. 

As a future project we believe this provides best design practice examples across conservation practice, contemporary architecture and building re-use.