Jewish Heritage Europe

Nominations invited for prize for preservation of a modernist building (… a synagogue, perhaps?)

Inside the cupola of Zilina synagogue, April 24, 2014. Photo © Dalibor Adamus courtesy of Nová Synagóga

The World Monuments Fund is inviting nominations for the 2018 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize — to be awarded to an architect, urban designer/planner, or other design professionals or firm in recognition of “an innovative intervention that preserved and saved a threatened modern building or complex.”

The WMF states:

Nominated projects must have been completed in the last five years, and must have faced challenges or threats that affected the site before preservation (for example: deteriorated condition of original materials, obsolescence, abandonment, changes in use, ownership, economic or political conditions, etc.).

One project along these line that we have been following is the restoration of the important modernist New Synagogue (Nová Synagóga) in Žilina Slovakia, which reopened in May 2017 as a contemporary arts center after six years of painstaking  work.

Front of Zilina New Synagogue. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Designed by the German architect Peter Behrens and built in 1928-31, the synagogue was long used as a university lecture hall and a cinema and stood empty for years. It was returned to the ownership of the Jewish community, which rented it for a symbolic fee to the Truc Sphérique civic association, which has headed the conversion. (JHE has been following this project and posted several updates about the work and innovative funding campaigns.) The tiny Žilina Jewish community uses another synagogue in the town, the  pre-war orthodox synagogue. 

Peter Behrens’s original plans for the Zilina synagogue

During the renovation process, original copies of Behrens’s project for the building, thought to be definitively lost, were discovered in the archives of the Olomouc Museum of Art in the Czech Republic.

The restoration already has won a Slovak architecture award.

See the Call for Nominations for the Kroll Award


1 comment on “Nominations invited for prize for preservation of a modernist building (… a synagogue, perhaps?)

  1. Well, all in all it is very positive, but some mistakes were made, and it would be perhaps fruitful to discuss these at the conference in Cracow.

    What I mean, is a kind of strong de-Judification of the building. Every Jewish trace was carefully removed, which is a mistake. Now the building radiates an emptiness. The organizer is willing to listen, but we should help him.

Leave a Comment