A new head and heart for an existing Jewish Day School that for decades lacked a dedicated entrance, community space, and identity of its own.
At the Bernard Zell Ashe Emet Day School (BZAEDS), children see and feel their Jewish culture, community, and history expressed in their new school every day.
After decades of sharing a small, inconspicuous entrance with their partner synagogue, BZAEDS expanded to establish an identity and entrance of their own—unifying an existing assemblage of dark masonry buildings, constructed over time and in a variety of styles with a tall, singular glass and brick volume that appears to float above the ground floor.
Timeless Jewish principles and ideas are embedded into the entire experience of the building to teach, create sacred space, and engage active learning. From outside, a light-colored brick ‘Tallit’ wraps the new addition—just as a traditional Jewish tallit (a fringed prayer shawl) covers one’s shoulders to prepare for reflection, prayer, and worship. The façade ‘fringes’ remind students they are all unique in their own way yet intertwined, while the ‘tzitzit’ (fringe knots) remind students to do ‘mitzvot’ (acts of loving kindness).
Students and parents enter the school through a landscaped plaza with boulders, trees, and natural elements, into a daylight-filled security vestibule and inviting loggia. Immediately, they are visibly connected to activities all around them: students playing in the outdoor field and play areas, faculty and parents relaxing in an open lounge, administrators and staff meeting in the conference room, and students ascending a stair to their classrooms and gymnasium.
At the heart of the new school addition is a brick and glass sacred space—The Makom Rina or ‘Place of Joy’. Twelve curved brick walls pinwheel in plan to allow glimpses to the musical and spiritual activities taking place inside. Each of these brick walls represents one of the twelve original tribes of Israel. The two wythes of brick that make up each of these panels are tied together with headers, slightly pushed and pulled out of the wall, in a pattern that evokes the star of David. These header bricks, arranged as symbols of Judaism, form the structure of the wall, tying individual units into a cohesive whole. In an echo of the ancient western wall of Jerusalem, joints are raked open so that participants can place prayers between the bricks.
Throughout the new facility, important Jewish values are conveyed and shared; woven and thoughtfully placed; underfoot, wrapping the head, framing eyes, and shaping the heart of the school.
General Contractor: Bulley & Andrews
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP Engineer: IBC Engineering
Landscape, Civil & Traffic Engineer: TERRA Engineering
Acoustical Consultant: Shiner Acoustics
Owner’s Rep: CBRE
AV/Security Design: Hillard Heintze
Mason: J&E Duff
Millworker: Lange Bros. Woodwork Co. Inc.
Glazier: Gateway Incorporated
Photography: Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers