Restoration of Beit Midrash Morasha Synagogue, at Arthur’s Road

Metropolis Design

The Beit Midrash Morasha Synagogue was severely damaged by fire in 2018. From the devastating loss of collective memory, the work of rebuilding has evolved through focused community engagement to bridge the divide between faithful re-construction on the one hand, and a significant aesthetic and functional shift on the other.

The strategy of preserving and maintaining the original exterior and interior envelopes and period details, whilst adding new isolated contemporary design elements that engage in a spatial discourse with the remaining original fabric has resulted in an excellent example of conservation and recycling.

The architects have negotiated, and seemingly embraced, the combined challenges of fulfilling the Jewish halachic regulatory requirements, a community’s affection for their original building, a reassessment of the building’s functionality, and the more secular controls of heritage committees and municipal restrictions. The client comment of surprise at the end result of the re-building is testament to the success of the work to the community it serves.

The primary move to de-emphasis the cruciform plan of the original 1925 Dutch Reformed Church by inserting an octagonal roof, which introduces more specific Jewish symbolism into the synagogue, has been handled masterfully. The roof disassociates from the building, hovering over it and bringing in an ethereal light that culminates at its crown with a floating Star of David motif that creates a play of light and shadow depending on the time of day.

The architects have innovatively retained the inherent meanings associated with the synagogue before the fire without disturbing the layers of association accumulated through years of prior use to produce a significant building and space of worship, and exemplary example of how a damaged building can be conserved as well as renewed.

Client: Beit Midrash Morasha

Architects: Metropolis – Jon, Jacobson, Gillian van der Klashorst

Heritage Architect: Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects – Mike Scurr, Wendy Wilson

Structural Engineer: Hulme & Associates – Alten Hulme, Paul Borton

Quantity Surveyor: Shevel & Simpson Quantity Surveyors -Russel Shevel

Electrical Engineer: Lewis & Kroon – Paul von Zwiklitz, Joe Sanzul

Mechanical Engineer: Jo Lubbe

Contractor: Status Africa – Cindy Mgoza, Craig Bain

Lighting Consultant: GS Lighting – Greg Segal

Photographer: Paris Brummer