The Kraft Jewish Students' Center


This is the new Jewish Students' Center, being built on 115th St. between Broadway and Riverside. It looks like a fancy designer clothing store from Madison Avenue. Its only slightly interesting aesthetic characteristic is that it is covered in Jerusalem stone, but this is out of character with the surrounding buildings and looks ridiculous in the gray northern climate of New York City, as revealed by other attempts at this elsewhere. It is also a ploddingly over-literal way to signify the purpose of the building, whose actual architecture has nothing Jewish about it. The exotically Levantine Yeshiva University uptown and even our local and oddly WASP-y Jewish Theological Seminary do much better at connoting religion. And why can't it be the same height as the buildings next to it, or at least free of that awkward split-level roofline?

To be fair, the stone works reasonably nicely in the interior, and the building has a generously-proportioned and welcoming lobby with a gracefully curved glass entry. Also, the stone being used is a grayish-to-putty-colored variety of Jerusalem stone, not the glowing golden kind famous from photographs of the Jerusalem skyline. The architect, Jordan Gruzen of the firm of Gruzen Samton, pointed this out in conversation but declined an invitation to respond here to the other criticisms above.

We asked to work with Columbia University and the donor paying for this building to come up with a design that harmonizes better with the neighborhood, but neither party was interested, so we will be stuck with this dull psuedo-modernist eyesore, shown in green on the map below, for decades.

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