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The Beth Am Synagogue, located in historic Reservoir Hill, is one of the oldest synagogues in Baltimore City. Over time, a lack of modern HVAC and approximately a century of use created the need for a redesign. In undertaking the project, Alexander Design Studio aimed to improve accessibility, input modern technical infrastructure, and facilitate usage for diverse events, while prioritizing the historic character of the building.

In Hebrew, Beth Am means house of the people, so removing the obstacle of the 18 steps from Eutaw Place up to the main entrance was one of the primary goals for the project. In order to address this while still respecting the historic fa├žade, a new decidedly modern entrance with accessible ramp was added at ground level along Chauncey Avenue. The new, light-filled lobby links to lower-level spaces with a new grand stair and large elevator. The welcoming grand features a balustrade by sculptor David Hess with mismatched reclaimed spindles symbolizing human diversity.

In the sanctuary, new ductwork, sound and lighting were woven underneath the balconies to avoid disturbing the masonry walls and piers. The marble lectern was removed and the bimah thrust outward facilitating interaction between the Rabbi and congregation. The seating was reorganized around the bimah and a cross aisle added accommodating more intimate events. Below an expanded social hall/ chapel and support space were rebuilt. Moveable partitions easily transform the space for gatherings, worship, classes or meetings. The result is a transformation that celebrates the historic elements of Beth Am while ensuring they can be well used and well appreciated further in the future.

Client

Beth Am Synagogue

Location

Baltimore, MD

Size

35,137 SF

Program

Renovation of Historic Synagogue

Completion

2020

Sector

Historic + Adaptive Reuse

Worship

Team

Internal Team: Charles Alexander, Jessica Damseaux, Patrycja Hollis

Design Team: Kinsley Construction (Contractor), Henry Adams Consulting Engineers (MEP), Carney Engineering (Structural), Colbert Matz Rosenfelt Inc. (Civil), RED Sketch Landscape Architect (Landscape), Acoustical Design Collaborative (Acoustical Engineering), Flux Studio (Lighting), Fresh Foodservice Design (Kitchen Consultant)

Awards

AIA Baltimore, Michael F. Trostel, Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation

ULI Wavemaker 2021

Baltimore Heritage 2020