My second trip to Greenbank Synagogue aka The Ark in Liverpool. The now abandoned building was constructed in 1936 and was used by an active congregation until 2007 when the synagogue finally closed its doors. Greenbank originally 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.
Designed by architect Alfred Ernest Shennan and consecrated on August 15,1937, this synagogue became a refuge for homeless families in the Blitz.
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, Greenbank 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, and succeeds in these terms.
Greenbank Drive Synagogue is architecturally by far the most important and innovatory 20th-century synagogue in England and is the finest surviving synagogue in Europe dating from the inter-war period. It also has important socio-historic significance as representing a last late optimistic cultural expression of European Jewry before the holocaust.
The Future of Greenbank Synagogue
I understand that planning permission was submitted to convert the building into flats, I am unsure as to the outcome of that application, but I believe the future remains somewhat uncertain for this building.
Shortly after our initial visit and an article published on the European Jewish Heritage website the building received a grant of £51,000 from the English Heritage and a further £19,000 pledged by the local council to attend to immediate repairs. I was informed by friends that scaffolding was erected and some repairs completed to the roof between my visits and internally there had been some cleaning up and items removed most likely for safe storage.
Visited with Oldskool, Andy de Kay of Behind Closed Doors and Stussy . We arrived early to catch the sunrise which is really nice in the main Ark. Similar to last visit we were blessed with a warm yellow glow cast on the left-hand side of the room. I shot most of this trip handheld with the 24-105 lens, having captured most of the wide shots last trip I thought I would mix it up a bit. Decay is really setting in here, but fortunately, the condition hasn’t deteriorated beyond repair and the place remains very photogenic.
More reports from this derelict synagogue can be found here:
Greenbank Synagogue February 2014 Part 1
Greenbank Synagogue February 2014 Part 2
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Enjoyed this report? then take a look at the report over at Behind Closed Doors: Greenbank Synagogue
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