New Downtown Jerusalem Campus by SANAA and Nir-Kutz Architects
Text: Florian Maier
The site of the new campus, located in the Russian compound between the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Museum of Underground Prisoners, was chosen by the government of Israel, the Jerusalem municipality, and the Bezalel Academy for its unique status as a multi-cultural meeting place. The move will allow the academy to be part of a living, vibrant urban social texture while rejuvenating the downtown area by bringing young students and the spirit of art back to its streets.
The need for a central building arises from the multi-disciplinary perception of contemporary arts, with digital technology as essential ingredient in the design process. Sejima and Nishizawa, who presented their final plans in Jerusalem, proposed a design composed of an array of horizontal slabs, stacked above one another, along the area's topography. On the exterior, the connected slabs form a terraced roof overlooking the city. Inside, the architects created a series of central, multi-level spaces where students and teachers can meet, study and display their work, reflecting Bezalel Academy's interdisciplinary approach that bridges the school's eight departments and encourages co-creation.
Established in 1906 by artist Boris Schatz, with the support of the founder of Modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, Bezalel is Israel's leading academy of art and design. The Bezalel experience is characterized by an interaction of tradition and ancient techniques with ever-changing, cutting-edge technologies across a broad and multi-faceted scope of artistic disciplines.
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design announced the gift of $25 million from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio on 10 June 2013. The lead gift, part of Bezalel Academy's $100-million capital campaign, will fund the construction of the school's new downtown campus. "We are deeply grateful and honored by this gift," stated Professor Eva Illouz, President of Bezalel. "The new Bezalel campus will be home for the finest Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Israel. By virtue of this status, it is the leading institute for innovative thinking about Israeli culture in its entirety."
In addition to sponsoring the Bezalel End of Year Graduate Exhibition for many years, the Mandel Foundation offices in Israel have been building a collection of works of Bezalel students. The collection now includes over 100 pieces from the departments of Ceramics and Glass, Fine Art, and Photography.