Israel Antiquities Authority Center


            The city of Jerusalem has designated a site for the new Israel Antiquities Authority building. Located on a steep slope adjacent to the Israel Museum, the Bible Lands Museum and the Shrine of the Book, the site has a dramatic view of the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. The programme for the new center is meant to encourage public participation in the authority’s activity, incorporating all the operational and research departments in one public place. In the new center visitors will be able to view museum exhibits and major storage vaults of the nation’s treasures. Thus, the center will be an active museum which will include exhibition areas, a library, auditorium and cafeteria. The Israel Antiquities Authority invited four architects to compete: Moshe Safdie who won the competition, Ada Karmi-Melamede, Dina Ammar-Curiel Avraham Architects and Nahum Meltzer-Guy Igra Architects.



Moshe Safdie and Associates


            The concept of Moshe Safdie’s design for the center is to make it a metaphor for archaeological excavation. The building is organized around three courtyards which descend from the height of one story on the upper access road to the bottom of the slope. The roof canopy is reminiscent in shape of the tent-like canopies used to shade archaeological excavations. The canopy is constructed of a net of tensile cables and fitted glass panels which provide shade to the lower levels while allowing light to filter through. Rainfall will mirror a waterfall as it drains into a circular pool in the courtyard. Below the roof canopy, the three descending courtyards house the archaeological exhibit areas, indoor galleries, library, archive and bridges overlooking the activities of the laboratories and the storage vaults of the national treasures. The courtyard on the lowest level is devoted to the offices, laboratories, and cafeteria. The outward-facing walls are made of the obligatory Jerusalem limestone and provide shading for the inner-facing walls which are made of glass curtains and metal panels.

Ada Karmi-Melamede with assistance from Yifat Finkelman


            The guiding principle of Ada Karmi-Melamedes design is the contradiction between the unknown past and the present. As mentioned, the site lies on a slope which the structure of the Center must cover. Her programme was to create a tour for the visitor which would take him from the light outside to the depths of the dark unknown below. She created two alternative routes through the Center: one functional for those who work there, and a second for the visitors. The visitors tour begins in the garden on the upper level and continues through the different levels down to the lower exhibition area, creating an experience of time parallel to that of an archaeological excavation.


Dina Ammar-Curiel Avraham Architects


            The Ammar-Curiel design, like Safdies, focused on the image of an archaeological excavation. However, this design placed greater emphasis on the contradiction between the known and the unknown. Thus, the national treasure storage vaults are buried in the less visible peripheral areas whilst the exhibition areas are located in the central courtyard from which one can also view the lower levels. There are three different tours the visitor can choose to take through the center: a tour of the national treasures storage vaults, a second of the working laboratories, and a third one along the roof and outer exhibition areas.


Nahum Meltzer-Guy Igra Architects


            Perhaps the most Jerusalem-like in nature is the design entered by Meltzer-Igra Architects. Here the workspaces of the center are placed along a public route defined by massive stone walls. The design of the exhibition areas is based on the theme of the archaeological dig: the levels are stratified, descending into the earth, and other elements such as random geometry, the courtyard and a water crater are incorporated.



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