The new Hillel Student Center serves Milwaukee's Jewish college students and faculty,
offering opportunities for social gathering, communal dining, informal relaxation, meal
preparation, academic presentation, and study. The structure occupies an end-block
site - a former parking lot adjacent to the UWM Zelazo Building - simultaneously healing
a wound in the residential fabric to the south, and integrating the institutional scale
and communal activities of the ecclesiastical corridor of the university campus to the
north. The project enables the Hillel to expand, while vacating its current mid-block
residence, returning that building to its original function as part of the domestic milieu.
The new building is shaped through a balance of site constraint and internal organization,
providing a layered sequence of entry and apertures that shape social interaction while
selectively capturing light and view. This sequence culminates in the second floor assembly
space, oriented east and integrating an Ark and Bimah for use during religious services.
The assembly space is sheathed in a series of openings that frame shifting views of the
neighborhood, including the Zelazo center (formerly the Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun Synagogue),
as well as a green roof and landscaped courtyard that help to re-knit this former parking
lot into the ecological fabric of the city. The courtyard hosts informal uses and special
events such as the yearly erection of a Sukkah. By integrating sustainability, communal
space, religious functions and neighborhood fabric, the project embodies Jewish identity,
values, and the Hebrew concept of Tikkun Olam, or "heal the world."
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