Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre, Garnethill, Glasgow

Client: Scottish Jewish Archives Centre

Designers: John Gilbert Architects

Fit Out: Elmwood Projects

In August 2020 we were delighted to hand over the completed new Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre and Holocaust-era Study Centre in Glasgow, despite a temporary hiatus to works over the summer due to COVID.

The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre has been dedicated to collecting historic material relating to Jewish people in Scotland since 1987. It was a privilege to be awarded this contract to create a new Heritage Centre and to contribute to the enhancement of a stunning Grade A-listed building with a valuable cultural significance to Glasgow and to Scotland.

The Centre’s impressive collection of artefacts includes over 6,000 photographs, war medals, old synagogue minute books, paintings, sculptures and much more – all devoted to preserving Scotland’s Jewish heritage. We were entrusted with the extensive refurbishment and Fit-out works of this unique space, which involved the conversion of the basement of the Garnethill Synagogue (Scotland’s oldest synagogue, opened in 1879) to form the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre.

The detailed works include re-roofing of the Sukkah space, formation of a new kitchen, new office space, new carpet flooring, new doors, re-servicing and re-decoration of the exhibition and function spaces with graphics, furniture and presentation facilities. The Sukkah room was also fully damp proofed with heating, lighting, new vinyl flooring and an internal suspended curved cedar timber ceiling to be used for the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

The works also extended to refurbishment of the casement windows and remediating defective underground drainage in the courtyard.

A striking new feature added to the building was a metalwork external gate and fencing, fashioned with an exquisitely decorative Star of David pattern.

Working alongside Quantity Surveyors Ailsa and John Gilbert Architects, close communication was maintained throughout the process from design to build, install and handover. Also key to this project, however, was keeping the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre Trust members very much in the communication loop, considering they were not only our clients but also our valued liaison with the congregation and the local community.

The nature of the building and the project meant that careful consideration had to be given to issues such as working hours and access – during the works the synagogue remained fully functional and site working hours were coordinated to ensure no clashes took place with any religious ceremonies. We also endeavoured to use the quietest suitable plant and equipment during the fitout.

Our refurbishment has created a bright, fresh and engaging new space for visitors to explore this beautiful building and gain an understanding of its history and significance, and also to learn more about the stories of those who escaped the Nazi regime and came to Scotland to start a new life.