The Ark

The empty and abandoned main sanctuary hall inside the most important 20th-century synagogue in England and without doubt the finest surviving in Europe dating from the inter-war period.

Constructed in 1936 and used by an active congregation until 2007, it gained its listed status in 1983 however this was upgraded to Grade II status shortly after its closure in 2008 and has been on the ‘at risk’ register since 2010. It is hoped the repairs will secure its long-term future and help find a new use for it however until then the building sits empty in a derelict state.

The art deco design 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, it 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.

Given its hugely significant representation as a last great cultural expression of European Jewish culture before the holocaust, this is one of the most important cultural grounds I've ever explored and yet it felt almost entirely forgotten among it's surrounding urban landscape. In all honesty I never expected to get inside. Full gallery and interior exploration detail coming soon.