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Designing a “place for conversation”

As we look ahead to what 2021 has in store for us, where better to start than our new building.

Manchester Jewish Museum will re-open in 2021 with a new building, twice the size as before. Our synagogue will have been repaired, refurbished and its original decorative features reinstated. Designed by award-winning architects, Citizens Design Bureau, our extension will include a new gallery, learning studio & kitchen, collection store, shop and cafe.

Architect Katy Marks of Citizens Design Bureau spoke to Architect’s Journal about her inspiration and consultation process for creating a museum that reflects the diversity of Manchester’s Jewish Communities and the museum’s local community and creates a space for sharing and connection:

“It has to be a place for conversations, about diversity, identity, migration and community. In that context, our design process has involved endless conversations, workshops, study trips with a huge variety of people: local community, Jewish communities, schools, historians, artists, academics and more. The brief has evolved explicitly through an iterative ’scratch’ process, creating test events in the synagogue (’synagigs’!), to bagel-baking workshops – all of which will form an integral part of the museum experience.

The local community is as diverse as it gets, with a large refugee population […] We’ve designed the building less in the spirit of a museum in the traditional sense but more with the brief of creating ‘a living room for Cheetham Hill’. 

Since the principal focus of the museum is to tell stories of social history, great care has been taken to reflect the diversity of Jewish communities in Manchester: diversity of religious practice, language, wealth and politics. There is huge political, social and religious diversity in Manchester and this museum is exciting in that it doesn’t speak with one voice or purport to represent a definitive version of a singular Jewish community. The museum will also invite conversations on migration, refugees and being an outsider in a new place. The architecture is designed explicitly to reflect that.” 

Katy Marks

Design images courtesy of Citizens Design Bureau.

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