Report - Greenbank synagogue September 2015

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Regular User
Dec 1, 2014
Greater manchester
myself @woopashoopaa @telf1980 @Dangle_Angle @The Kwan and Emma all met to do another location but decided to leave it for another day and headed over to the synagogue. After first entering a outer building with the door to the main hall sealed scouted around to find another successful entry point and if you like wood this is the place for you. Here's some history and on with some pics of the day...

The Greenbank Drive Synagogue was built in 1936/7 and is the work of the notable Liverpool architect Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan. Most of his other work is also in Merseyside and comprises a diversity of building types. His inter-war designs included Westminster Banks; five cinemas including the listed Forum Cinema on Lime Street, Liverpool; restaurant interiors (The French Café and Arabic Café, both 1933, Liverpool); dance halls (The Grafton Rooms, Liverpool, 1934); hotels and office blocks. Greenbank Drive is Shennan’s only synagogue and is very different to the rest of his oeuvre up to that time which, apart from the banks, was distinctive art deco.


















To put this building in context: in the first half of the 20th century, Anglo Jewry did not enthusiastically adopt international modern architecture for its new synagogues and community buildings. (This is in dramatic contrast to Jewish Community buildings in Palestine and the emergent State of Israel during the 30’s and 40’s, which produced the most extensive legacy of modern movement buildings anywhere.) Owen William’s Dollis Hill Synagogue (1936, now mutilated) was the only genuinely modern movement synagogue.

Though there are some impressive deco influenced synagogues dating from the late 1920s, they are all to some degree exercises in historicism, often combined with exoticism. (See for example the splendid Byzantine art deco of the former Leeds New Synagogue, now the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, 1938 by J Stanley Wright and Clay.)

Greenbank Drive is very different as in its design Shennan produced a synthesis of his previous art deco style and other modern architectural tendencies. It directly reflects Swedish architectural influences, both in the exterior of the building, which is clearly inspired by the late fruition of the Swedish national romantic style, and in its interior, which draws on contemporary Swedish functionalism. In consequence, Greenbank stands alone as a synagogue which is really significant in terms of the progressive architecture of its time. Although clearly not ‘international modern’, it was a genuine attempt at a new architecture appropriate for a modern synagogue, and succeeds in these terms. We are for once looking forward, not back to an exotic past.

The Synagogue has a re-inforced concrete and steel frame structure, with the external walls faced in ‘golden brown’ hand cut bricks. There is a grand approach to the west front entrance up two flights of shallow steps, with curved concrete balustrades. The west front has a three bay projecting entrance, with three semi-circular headed double curved brick arches supported on circular brick piers. (This composition draws directly on the influence of Ivar Tengbom’s Hogalids Church in Stockholm.)

Choo Choo m8ty

Mr Reality Hacker
Regular User
Sep 29, 2014
Looks nice this m8ty. Good pics and thanks for report. Kinda reminds me of houses of parliament lol. Maybe same designer lmao or they had some spare wood lying around

The Kwan

Easily Led
Regular User
Mar 28, 2011
Ace photies Mr Lavino, I was really pleased to see that the main building has not suffered any real pikey trauma so to speak..nice to meet you and Dylan :thumb
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