The first thing one notices when approaching the house is the shape of the building. Although it is not very wide, the building is extremely deep, and when one walks into the back door (Vernon St side) they can see the other entrance on the opposite side of the building (Allen Place) down a very long corridor. The building has a very unique and modern appearance and a lot of this is due to the sloped roof, and the combination of wooden paneling and the smoothed limestone. Once inside the house, the usage of natural lighting through large, rectangular windows on the ceilings make for a very vibrant and open feeling. There are two libraries in the house, one of the first floor and one on the second and each library possess extremely high ceilings which create a feeling of breath. The libraries both have gorgeous limestone fireplaces that center both rooms. The prayer room is perhaps the most interesting room in the house due to the combination of both extremely high ceilings as well as the open window ceilings. During the day the room is flooded with natural sunlight and the acoustics of the room are made extremely special because of the height and slope of the ceilings. The staircase leading to the second floor also follows suit in terms of the elevated and open ceilings. The natural light that is brought into the building give it a very sacred and spiritual feeling as there is not much use of technology in terms of unnatural light (with the exception of the corridor).
The building of the Zachs Hillel House was made possible by a very generous donation of $2.8 million. The Hillel House incorporates many of the same values that can be seen in other buildings done by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, such as the work they did on the Olin Fitness Center of Smith College, where the whole back wall of the building is completely glass giving it that same open feeling. The same goes for the Mind Brain Behavior Building at Brown University. The usage of wood paneling can be seen in the work they did on the Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital. The usage of the sloped roofs can be seen at the Science Center Expansion at Harvard University.
74 Vernon Street, Hartford, CT