Sephardic Community Center

  • User Side Images Image 348
    Exterior entry. Photo: Jeffrey Totaro.
  • User Side Images Image 349
    Lobby stair view. Photo: Jeffrey Totaro.
  • User Side Images Image 350
    Photo: Jeffrey Totaro.
  • User Side Images Image 351
    Connective stairways. Photo: Jonathan Wallace.

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Type: Community Center
Size: 100,000 sq. ft.
Year Completed: 2010
Project Architects: BKSK Architects LLP

Bringing Active Design principles to a building renovation can be challenging, given the constraints of an existing building. But the renovation of the Sephardic Community Center show what can be accomplished,” said David Burney. “Not only does the renovated building include active recreation such as a gym, fitness center and pool; the main lobby staircase, wide and light-filled, becomes the most prominent circulation path, made even more inviting by the long glass wall bearing images of Sephardic immigrants.

The new Sephardic Community Center is a transformative expansion and renovation of its original 30-year old building. The design team aimed at creating a sense of cohesiveness between the wide range of activities that take place in the facility and used Active Design to meet this goal. Focusing on a new central circulation system, the design improves access to various programmed spaces within the building and promotes physical exercise among its multi-generational members. Translucent partitions convert what were once visually and distinctly separate rooms into inviting areas of engagement.

Active Design Highlights

  • The circulation system is anchored by an architecturally distinctive open stair, which funnels natural light into the core of the building.
  • The open stair strengthens the building’s wayfinding system, and fosters opportunities for social engagement.
  • The design includes a gym, fitness center, racquetball courts, a swimming pool, and classes for members of all ages.
  • Signage displays information on classes, health/nutrition, and local community activities.


  • The two-story lobby space and circulation stair features a glass wall that incorporates over 400 images of family members who immigrated to the U.S., visually taking members up the stairs and through the building.