concorso internazionale per l’Accademia di arti applicate BEZALEL, Jerusalem (IL), 2006

The architectural idea of the design stems from the poetry of “subtraction” of [from] the Maximum Building Envelope, inspired by the gestures of the sculptor that carves a shape from raw solid material. Our approach started with carving out a central space, thereby opening a viewing corridor towards the city and the Cathedral, as required by the call for proposals. The bounds of the carved space are aligned with the pre-existing ones of the two historical buildings (Russian Mission and Hospice for Men) while on the northern side the cut evolves into a complex surface which follows the rotation of the urban texture towards the Hospice for Women, located downhill (always respecting the required 45-meter clearance towards the Church axis) On the western side the building aligns with the facades of the historical buildings, while towards north and south it follows the limits of the land parcel. The volume so obtained was then further carved with a “gestural” cut, an actual “bite” which opens the three-dimensional box, revealing its contents and visually connecting the wings of the academy.The skin of the building is covered with Jerusalem Stone, crossed by linear grooves forming a pattern which resembles bar codes. The grooves appear to be randomly arranged, but they provide light to the interior while limiting the impact of direct sunlight. The groove distribution changes according to the needs of adjacent interior spaces, becoming denser around the corners which are further away from the expansive transparent ceiling that illuminates the core of the building. This suspended ceiling, made of low-emission glass with integrated silicon photovoltaic cells, supplies energy for the building, while partially filtering direct sunlight.

From the point of view of circulation, the academy is conceived with a large shared three-story basement, partially underground, with distribution spaces that run longitudinally north-south, connecting, as in a large urban road, all the public “events” of the academy: auditorium, library, sports facilities, canteen, computer farm, shops, and the greater central meeting place. This last space is located at the intersection with the other main axis in the building design, which runs east-west and connects the public urban space at the Church level with the lower one at the museum level, which can be accessed both from the exterior, through a public stairs, and from the interior, though a spiral stairway. Departments are located inside the two “towers”, with terraces opening towards the large glass ceiling that provide natural lighting and visual permeability among Departments and across the towers, so as to guarantee visual continuity to foster integration and multi-disciplinary interaction.