Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Status: Completed August 2022
Size: 21,400 sq. ft.
The community center Shechem, (pronounced shek-uh m) an offshoot of the adjacent Hope Street housing takes its name from an ancient city in the West Bank near present day Nablus. As the pivotal setting for numerous biblical events, it was understood as a central place in the Bible and the story of Israel. Alluding to that past, Shechem serves as a central life changing place in the stories of the people who pass through it for job skills training, professional development, and youth recreational opportunities. The new facility is a physical demonstration of Hope Street’s motto “The greenhouse for people”.
Developing a structure to house such a mission was both a challenging and humbling experience. The interior layout was complicated in that the program was a rich medley of functions. A gymnasium, classrooms, a café, staff offices, and a rooftop gardening area were all programmatic components that competed for prominence, proximity, and visibility to Capitol Drive.
Because Shechem was conceived of as a welcoming, helpful place, providing a strong connection between the activity within the building and the neighborhood was paramount. Precast concrete support walls perpendicular to the street form a frame that cradle the café and educational spaces and allow them to open onto the street.
The small courtyard created off Capitol Drive provides a much-needed refuge from the noise and extreme velocity of traffic on the street. It serves as a built analogy for the mission of Shechem as well. South facing, this space provides a transition between the chaotic world outside, and the nurturing environment provided within the building. Primary access to the building is gained off the courtyard through the entry tower which acts as a beacon visible for blocks in either direction.
Want to learn more about this project?Contact Nick Contact Brandon