The topping out ceremony at the Jewish Community Centre building on London’s Finchley Road afforded supporters the opportunity to take a tour of its colossal shell, which will eventually house a kindergarten, cinema, restaurant, bar, community space and art, drama and music facilities.
Dame Vivien Duffield, whose Clore Duffield Foundation contributed £25 million to the project, officiated at the ceremony, staged just over a year before the intended opening. The centre would be “a catalyst for the reinvigoration of London’s Jewish community”, she said. “The building and what takes place within it will attract Jews of every stripe and firmly establish the Jewish Community Centre as a key landmark on the cultural map of the capital.”
A large oak will be among the trees planted in the spacious piazza in the centre of the building, currently the workspace of men in hard hats. A café and meeting place will open out on to the piazza, offering space for freelancers to work and for community members to socialise. It will also host markets, entertainment and sporting activities.
There will be a bridge connecting the mezzanine level with Finchley Road. A 60-seat cinema, meeting rooms and offices are additionally beginning to take shape.
Wearing the obligatory security jackets, those taking the tour were guided by orange signs and descriptive boards, explaining what the spaces they were viewing would become. Chief executive Nick Viner highlighted the building’s green credentials. Plans for the centre include timber walls and floors in the main hall, a natural ventilation system, rainwater collection, bat and bird boxes and solar panels.
Head of development for the project, Naomi Nevies, looked forward “to having a place where my own teenage children can come, a place which is inspiring and safe for them to be.
“The building will have the word ‘Jewish’ emblazoned on it, so London Jews can walk a little taller.”
Board member Sir Trevor Chinn complimented the vision of the architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. “They absolutely got what we were trying to achieve.
“It has taken a lot of courage by Dame Vivien to see this through,” he added.
“This is going to be something very special — we’re going to wonder how we managed without it.”
West London Synagogue rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger ended the tour by reciting a blessing on the roof of the centre.
Guests were asked to detail their aspirations for the building on slips of paper for placement in the JCC time capsule — which is due to be opened in 250 years' time.