Sion Synagogue is located in Oradea. The building is included in the Historic Center of Oradea, being submitted on the Historical Monuments List, under the code BH-II-m-B-01054.
The temple was built by the reformist jews in 1878, as a result of the cleavage produced between the two ideologies in 1870.
Having a rectangular planimetry, oriented by est – west axis, the synagogue expresses a typical organisation for neologue places of worship. According to the compositional prescriptions, the organization of the flows is done in accordance with all the Jewish canons. The space of bimah with the shrine, the overlapping two central tribes and the organ as an exclusively reformist ritualic subdivision, give the Sion Synagogue the supreme expression of the jewish enlightenment in Oradea.
Viewed as a whole, the structure of this place is very elegant. The vault on the tambour unloads on the four points. The efforts are driven to the massive pillars on the edifice’s ground floor through bundles of four metal pillars. On the perimeter, the load-bearing walls stiffen the dome's stability by connecting the tribute floor with its four unloading points.
From the aesthetic point of view, we are witnessing an interesting join of stylistic and decorative elements. If the exterior attests an eclectic composition of Baroque inspiration, in interior there are at least two surprising features added to it: the mural painting of geometric inspiration - moorish and the modernist - avantgarde allure of the structural expressiveness of the ensemble.
Prior to the intervention, the Sion Synagogue was in a state of semi-abandonment. The building was out of the judaic ritual use, the empty space being left in the care of a guard. The neighborhood, represented on the one hand by a major traffic route with tram lines and on the other hand the proximity of the riverbed of Crişul Repede, were factors that decisively influenced the involution of the structural stability of the Temple of Sion. The vibrations produced by the tram lines, especially after World War II, caused major cracks and deformations in the masonry tissue of the synagogue. Thus, the 1980’s brought the site to a particularly serious situation in terms of structural stability. Another range of degradations is the lack of security of the building during 2000-2002, when vandalism led to the dislocation of some of the banks at the level of the side tribune, as well as to the dismantling of wooden floors in the same area.
By initiating the process of restoration of the Sion synagogue, it was intended to bring to the public attention and consciousness the heritage values of the city of Oradea. Also, through the newly assigned function: exhibition center and tourist information, it was intended not only to introduce the patrimonial property in the tourist circuit, but also to encourage the cultural sphere on an architectural object, representative for Oradea.
The state of preservation of the building was a great alarm signal. The deformations which occurred in time caused large cracks in the continuous brick masonry, so that prior to the intervention, the horizontal or vertical displacements of the outer walls could be seen with the naked eye. Thereby appears the need for consolidation, preservation and restoration of the emblematic building for the local heritage.
The proposed function for conversion: conference room, concert and, alternatively, a tourist information point in the pronaos area, was also chosen for the fact that it generates the least internal transformations in the building. Practically, the only interventions to ensure adaptability to the new function refered to the realization of two accesses from the pronaos area to the two side stairs.
However, even if the anticipated duration for the development of cultural programs is designed so as not to imply the necessity of setting up an area of sanitary groups within the synagogue, it was still proposed within a new building. It was designed in the inner courtyard of the building, underground, below the elevation of the landscaped ground.
Considering the rehabilitation interventions of the heritage building, within the synagogue were proposed restoration, consolidation, conservation and functional conversion works as follows:
- Strengthening by interventions which ensure structural stability through solutions for stabilizing foundations, preserving and returning to the original geometric parameters of the building.
- Conservation by measures which ensure returning to the original planimetry and volumetry of the building.
- Restoration of several artistic components of the synagogue: rehabilitation of facades, restoration of original wood carpentry, furnishings, refurbishment works of the moorish inscription and wall painting or restoration of lighting fixtures, etc.
- The new proposed interventions mainly address the rehabilitation or implementation of infrastructure systems to ensure that the new proposed activities are carried out on the premises. Thus, it was necessary to implement a general heating system and to restore the electrical circuits. The measures required to ensure security aimed providing a burglar alarm system and a video surveillance system. The proposed partitioning works aimed exclusively the two new accesses from the narthex to the side stairwells.
The new function provides not only an additional exposure of the place in its new role, but also ensures the degree of daily use and exploitation of the building, thus preventing it from abandon and, implicitly, from degradation. The importance of the project lies not only in winning a space with a certain destination, but also in recovering a city's emblematic building for its community.
Its historical and architectural value imposed a solution to its reintroduction into the life of the local community, preserving the building in its full authenticity. The proposed local intervention measures, as well as the overall approach of the project, aimed restoring the synagogue to its original image, as well as valorising its architectural, historical, artistic and cultural potential.
The emblematic value for the city, the culture and the tradition of the building were sufficient arguments for its proposal as a subject of reconversion and introduction into the tourist circuit. This was the most important goal of the project.