3 min read
09 Mar 2021

SGP delivers £1.2million Grade II listed synagogue redevelopment in Leicester


Stephen George + Partners LLP (SGP) are pleased to announce the completion of a £1.2 million redevelopment and refurbishment of the Victorian Grade II listed Highfield Street Synagogue in Leicester. SGP’s design creates an expansive glazed foyer to link the existing Synagogue and teaching building together, with improved ancillary accommodation at the rear.

The project was delivered under a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme for ‘Sharing Jewish Heritage in Leicester;’

Explains Kanti Chhapi, Studio Director at SGP: “We worked very closely with the Leicester Hebrew Congregation to understand and deliver what the community needed and wanted for their much-loved synagogue. The design is sensitive to old structure with the new connection being respectful to the original fabric, but distinct and honest, clearly visible but with the original building remaining the focus.”

Chairman of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation, Anthony Jacobs  “Leicester Hebrew Congregation is delighted with the design produced by Stephen George + Partners which has resulted in our Grade II listed synagogue being enhanced by a modern extension. This extension, along with the refurbishment of the existing structure, provides for both the needs of our community and the many visitors we receive each year as part of our “Sharing Jewish Heritage” project. We are grateful for the generous grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund that allowed us to develop this project in collaboration with SGP.”

The new facade is glazed curtain walling within brick piers to provide a cohesive transition between new and old, while the structure is predominantly steel with concrete underpinning to the existing buildings. Being an active place of worship, many elements of the building were specifically designed for the congregation, such as the Sukkah roof-light, which opens up fully to the elements as required to accommodate a gathering of people standing underneath during the Jewish Festival of Sukkot.

The mechanical and electrical systems were programmed with elements such as timer switches to avoid manual use of electricity on the Sabbath and during certain festivals. Rainwater harvesting took on an additional importance as the Mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath, had to have a natural water feed.

The lift was a particular issue, as due to space restrictions, the design had to use a platform lift. Most models required the user to hold their hand down on a button, but to comply with aspects of the Jewish faith on certain occasions, SGP had to find the one company in the UK, specialists in equipment suitable for religious requirements, who could provide a lift that would operate without a person needing to touch it.

Continues Kanti: “It’s a listed building, so that brought up its own challenges. In the exhibition space, our original, non-invasive survey suggested that the roof was in good condition but stripping back walls – and seeing the water running down from floor above during a heavy rain – revealed the gutter between synagogue and adjacent building required immediate attention.”

The site itself added challenges to the build programme, being very restricted, with roads on two sides and a terrace and garages at the rear. As Principal Designer, SGP was responsible for preparing the extensive risk register and health and safety file, as well as planning access for equipment such as cranes and even negotiating with the neighbours to allow access by demolishing and rebuilding some adjacent garages.

Concludes Kanti: “Our client was very tolerant, not only with the difficulties of the Synagogue still being used during construction, but also with the practical problems we encountered during the project. But it was very special to work on such a sensitive, detailed design – and one that was so close to our client, the Leicester Hebrew Congregation and the local Jewish community.”

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