From the architect: 

Architectural legacy

The Emanuel campus includes a heritage-listed synagogue completed in 1941 which accommodates 1200 worshippers. A second sanctuary designed by Aaron Bolot was completed in the 1960s and seats 250 people. These buildings constitute a significant legacy of Australian modernist architecture. 

A progressive and growing community

Since its origin in the 20th century, the Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney has embraced reform practices within the Jewish tradition. In the 21st century, Emanuel Synagogue has supported the equal role of women in lay and rabbinic leadership, has worked extensively in areas of social justice, animal rights and environmental protection. Australia’s first same sex religious wedding took place in 2018 on the Emanuel campus. 

A new open sanctuary

 In 2011 the Emanuel board resolved to build a third sanctuary for 700 congregants as well as a pre-school for 60 children in the southern wing of its existing campus. The new development was considered a once in a generation opportunity and was fully funded by donations from its members. 

The new pavilion is designed to served the community as both a cultural centre and place of worship. The space is equipped to allow the sanctuary to be adapted from religious services to concerts, performances, films and social functions and to serve not only the Emanuel congregation but also the wider local community. 

An acoustically treated operable wall allows the interior to be subdivided for small intimate functions of 270 seats up to larger seating configurations of 700 people. A high standard of acoustic treatment and audio reinforcement provides the adaptability of the space for these differing requirements. 

religious architecture

A forecourt between old and new synagogues 

Addressing the old forecourt from the street, the existing timber-lined foyer of the old synagogue remains the primary ceremonial entry to the campus. 

Extending from the south end of the foyer, a new glass wall and lift invites access to the new wing. Natural light and views to a landscaped garden are shared with the pre-school at ground level. The pre-school studios extend to outdoor play areas, forming a breezeway, shaded form the sun but offering access to the outdoor landscaped recreation space. 

Ascending from the old foyer, one reaches the elevated new sanctuary by first passing through the Kiddush Court, an outdoor room and transition space between old and new synagogues. This courtyard space allows both buildings to maintain their independent identities while providing a place for people to congregate and celebrate religious festivals. 

The courtyard is protected from rain by a diagrid steel structure roofed with glass. It is bounded by the façade of the old synagogue, including exposed heritage fabric and the new sanctuary building. Within this new courtyard, the old and new buildings talk to one another.

religious architecture

Respect and warmth

While the new building respects its older neighbours, it was intended to express itself exuberantly and independently. The old sanctuaries are of masonry construction, while the new structure is a steel, glass and plywood pavilion. The striking colour of the new structure makes reference to the terracotta brickwork of the adjacent heritage building. 

The new pavilion’s increased sustainability performance is achieved by the introduction of water detention/recycling, natural ventilation, natural lighting and the use of recyclable materials. Natural light and ventilation is fundamental to the design, although combined with LED lighting and mechanical ventilation, provides optimum comfort levels and a sense of luxury. 

The internal plywood linings, rich interior finishes and colour imbue the space with an ambience that is warm and welcoming, befitting its use as a place of religious worship.

religious architecture

Biblical references

The orientation and dimensions of the new sanctuary are based on specific ancient biblical references, reinterpreted to respond to contemporary conditions. Custom-made joinery, designed specifically for the new sanctuary, utilise Acacia timber veneers for the reader’s desk and ark in accordance with these specifications. 

Abstract religious artwork is integrated with the fabric of the architecture. It reflects the triangular geometry and Star of David motifs. The western glass screen providing privacy from neighbours is a depiction of the “painting of the seas”, while the northern glass wall represents “the seven species”. These artworks express the narrative of salvation from bondage and redemption to the promised land. 


  • Steel ‐ Apollo Fabrications
  • Façade ‐ AJ Aluminium  
  • Timber ‐ Supawood 


  • Glass ‐ glass viridian low e glass with Pixagraphic laminated by viridian  
  • Steel painting ‐ p07f9 orange wood gloss finish and Malay grey pg2c6 by Dulux  
  • Timber ceiling and wall cladding ‐ clear satin 2-pac polyurethane on Tasmanian oak natural  timber veneer with wet seal and matching edges by Supawood  
  • External wall cladding ‐ Exo Tec cfc cladding by James Hardie 
  • Roofing ‐ custom orb and Spandek by Lysaght shale grey finish  
  • Eastern screen ‐ aluminium expanded screen panels by Locker Group  
  • Door hardware ‐ Assa Abloy  
  • TGSI ‐ TI series indicator studs stainless steel with black contrast insert by Latham Australia  
  • Bathroom fixtures ‐ Caroma  
  • DDA bathroom fixtures ‐ JD Macdonald  
  • Terrazzo partitions ‐ colour mt12 by Terrazzo Australia marble  
  • Sinks for laundry, childcare and kitchen ‐ Franke bow 400 inset  
  •  Stainless d pulls ‐ Madinoz Australia  
  • Linear grated drain ‐ Stormtec