Gold Winner 2023 – Skokie Valley Synagogue - Architecture Collection
Gold Winner of the Architecture & Design Collection Awards 2023

Skokie Valley Synagogue

Building Rehabilitation and Conservation

Architect / Designer:

Esther Sperber, Jillian Kranz


Studio ST Architects

Design Team:

Design Architect: Studio ST Architects Architect of Record: Auerbach Architects Ark and Judaica Design: Amy Reichert Design Structural Engineer: Goodfriend Magruder Structure LLC MEP Engineers: Calor Design Group Ltd. Acoustical Engineer: Aercoustics Lighting Consultant: Castelli Lighting General Contractor: Twenty 9, Inc.


Kendall McCaugherty, Andrew Bruah


United States
The Skokie Valley Synagogue renovation transformed the sanctuary, built in 1963, from a dark and formal room to an ethereal, bright and ADA accessible space for a contemporary congregation. The renovation included the installation of new windows and a new HVAC system throughout the building, as well as converting the old, large stage into modern bathrooms and a coat room. In order to brighten the sanctuary, a large triangular skylight was installed in the center of the room, lighting the location of the prayer leader. The existing colored vertical windows were replaced with clear glass, and the outdated candelabra chandeliers were removed. New minimal LED linear cove uplights were installed, washing the original building’s angled roof geometry and illuminating the room with indirect light. The tan brick walls were painted with a coat of white lime wash, brightening the space while respecting its past. Movable chairs replaced the fixed seats and reoriented the focus of prayer east toward Jerusalem. The new seats allow for flexibility and bring the congregation closer to the ark and bimah––the reading table from which prayer services and Torah readings are led. The sanctuary’s focal point is the ark where the sacred Torah scrolls are held. The design of the ark and reading table responds to the existing structure’s geometry. Their irregular geometry also drew inspiration from the Kabbalistic idea of “broken vessels,” which symbolizes people’s responsibility to repair the damaged world. The ark and reading table are connected by a raised oak platform that is accessible by an ADA ramp. Custom-made glass partitions separate the men’s and women’s sections, while allowing both sides to see the service. The frosted glass has the Friday evening service etched onto it, creating a pattern of translucent forms made of Hebrew letters. The architect and congregation were committed to creating a space that aesthetically addresses current ethical and societal needs. They achieved their goal of creating a contemporary space that allows congregants to experience both the communal aspects of praying together and the personal and intimate spiritual experience.

Studio ST Architects

Studio ST Architects is an award-winning, woman-owned architecture firm in New York City. Esther Sperber founded Studio ST Architects in 2003 to focus on sustainable, innovative and responsible design. We design residential, multifamily housing and institutional buildings including synagogues and other places of worship. As New York City architects, our renovations range in scale from community centers, schools and high-end apartments to affordable real-estate developments, including duplex renovations, duplex combinations as well as apartment combinations. Our firm combines unique expertise in architecture and psychology to design inspiring buildings and renovate spaces that transform people’s experiences, build deep and inclusive community connections, and create a sense of health and well-being.

We encourage designers and architects to share their best projects with the rest of the world so as to inspire the next generation and gain global recognition.