The Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life designed by Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects is a communal home at the Drexel University in Philadelphia. It is a space to create a continuing community of Jewish values through meeting, learning, ceremony and ritual.
The building is organized on four interconnected levels. The basement contains the kitchens and storage areas. The first level, a few steps above the street, is dedicated to everyday life, to meeting and talking, to siting around a fire, to gathering and eating, to the casual and occasions. At the center, and connecting the second floor, is a stair, amphitheater, auditorium, with a balcony overlooking it from above. This multilevel courtyard is a multipurpose space at the heart of the building, a place to hang out, a way to get from one level to the next, an auditorium at the pivot of everything.
The second floor is for focused activities, offices for planning and arranging, rooms for quiet study and discussion, places for groups and gathering, spaces for exploration and learning. The top floor is the place for the celebration of worship, the Shabbat floor, the level of sanctuary. The three prayer gatherings, conservative, orthodox and reform, are connected with a court that opens with a circular cut, an absent dome, to the sky above, the only view in the city free of the works of man. A circle in the ground of the court is paved with Jerusalem Stone. This absent sanctuary is what is common and connects the three branches of worship in common faith. The largest room doubles as the library, the Beit Midrash. The two other spaces are equal in size open, or divided in two halves.
Design, info and images © Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects