Rescue Mission

Location:  Syracuse, NY

Completed:  Fall 2019

Program:  Kitchen + Dining

Construction Type:  Renovation + Addition

Award:  2021 Award of Excellence 

The Clarence L. Jordan Food Service + Culinary Education Center located on the southwest edge of downtown Syracuse, provides meals, education and employment opportunities for those in need.  The center belongs to a larger campus of buildings operated by the Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization, striving to end hunger and homelessness.  The campuses main dining hall was originally designed to serve 300 meals a day.  Fast forward thirty years later and that number has almost tripled with little improvements having been made since.  The impact of this growth had compound effects; the dining room, serving line and kitchen were now significantly undersized.  This forced large numbers of people to wait outside in the Central New York elements while those already inside had to quickly finishes their meals to make room for others.  This system was very undignified and needed to be improved.  A critical challenge was to allow for the kitchen to remain fully operational throughout construction.

From the beginning, the vision for the project began with the need to expand and improve the quality of services offered at the Mission while also creating an environment for the local community to ‘dine with dignity’.  A new main entry, serving area, enlarged kitchen facilities, private family dining room and multi-purpose space make up the building addition with the original building serving primarily as the main dining room.  The design strategically stiches the various buildings, spaces and services of the campus together through the placement of the addition and by transforming an adjacent parking lot into a pedestrian friendly community space.  This new planted promenade centers on a large public plaza at the foot of the Food Service Center entrance.  The large sheltering canopy, which floats over the original building, acts as the hinge between the new and old; joining the new kitchen and serving area with the expanded dining room. The increased waiting capacity of the lobby offers two serving lines which has cut the wait time for meals in half, bringing all those waiting inside the building.  The warm and welcoming material palate includes natural stone and cedar planks that continue from the outside through the serving area and into the other publicly accessibly spaces within the building.

The design addresses the needs of the diverse group of people it serves in a variety of ways.  The main dining room has been expanded and offers a variety of seating types.  The room is wrapped by a wood ceiling that surrounds the central hearth which features a large fireplace, skylight and natural stone.  In addition to the main dining room, a more intimate space was designed specifically for families.  In this room, meals are hand delivered by volunteers, creating a restaurant style experience.  Three larger windows projecting from the wall, frame views into the kitchen area, showcasing the cooking process for parents and children.  Through the strategic use of materials, natural light and space, the design creates a transformative dining experience that uplifts the spirits of anyone looking for a warm meal.