New building at the knesset domain

New building at the knesset domain

After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Knesset wandered between buildings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before reaching, in 1950, the Fromin House on King George St. - a building originally planned as a bank. In 1957 an architectural competition was held for the permanent building on Givat Ram. However, the winning architect Yosef Klarwein was obliged to consult with the office of veteran architect Dov Karmi. Ram Karmi, who then worked in the office of his father as a young architect, proposed an alternative model, which ultimately served as the basis for the building?s image in its existing form, finalized in 1966.

Planned in 1981, the new Negba wing contained a 330-seat auditorium and 48 chambers for top MKs who had begun to employ secretaries and parliamentary assistants. As the wing was located on the bottom level, its presence was barely noticed, but thanks to the carpeted corridors, the chambers were eventually nicknamed ?Hiltons?.

During the 14th Knesset (1996-1999), it was decided to extend the building and add 60 new chambers. With the opening of the 15th Knesset in 1999, a tender was announced for the planning of the new Kedma wing. Following the first sifting of the few proposals submitted, a short list remained from which the N.Meltzer-G.Igra Architects proposal was chosen.

The winning proposal was finalized together with the steering committee headed by MK Meir Shitrit. Its main idea was to create a graded building according to the inclined topography, in order to avoid superceding the existing building.

In addition to the new chambers, place was allotted to new halls of the Knesset committees; an office wing for the auxiliary units; an energy center to serve all the buildings of the domain; a new entrance pavilion including sophisticated means of control for the many visitors; a new arcaded gate to replace the old Palombo Gate; and an underground parking house beneath the Knesset Square to replace the parking lots scattered in and outside of the Knesset domain.

The final plan was developed as a master plan authorized in 2000. The Knesset management decided to carry out the work according to the ?plan, implement, maintain? method. Namely - the contractor would complete the planning with his team of planners and consultants, construct the building, and maintain it for 25 years.

The advantage of the method lies in the contractor?s interest in erecting a building whose maintenance is economic over time - a rather rare phenomenon here; its clear shortcoming - the lack of a democratic process of choosing a planner by an open architectural competition. And the consolation: although the implementing contractor had the option to exchange the architect, he preferred to work with a planning team headed by the winning office.

Construction began at the end of 2001 and ended in 2007. It was conducted in stages, due to the representational nature of the site and the Knesset?s ongoing activities. Hence, alternate parking areas were allotted, and the machine rooms were built prior to the main buildings. Although the area of the Knesset was doubled with the completion of the new wing, the representational presence of the original building has been preserved, and the old interior - renovated.

The inner courtyards, planned originally by Klarwein but only implemented in the new wing, render its inhabitants space of retreat, on the background of restrained building details. Openness to the view has prominently improved the connection with the city, after years of seclusion in the governing ivory tower.

Architect Dr. Ami Ran

Editor-in-Chief Architecture of Israel

חזרה לגליון 77    back to issue 77