In 2008 the Israel Museum entered the international musuem renovation and expansion competitions...an on-going and even-spending building boom that has kept name-architects and top musuem designers busy for more than a decade. No where is this more true than in the world of Jewish Museums. It was time for Jerusalem's Israel Museum - the flagship institution for Jewish art to get into the act. After the Moshe Safdie renewal of Yad Vashem, the Israel Museum was looking dowdy. The existing facilities could not keep up with new demands in musuem collection management, conservation, exhibition, education and (yes) entertainment.
An article this week in the Jerusalem Post begins us up to date on construction work at the Israel Museum. Remarkable given the state of the worldwide economy, the project seems to be on schedule and on budget.
Arts: On schedule and on budget
May. 14, 2009
David Stromberg , THE JERUSALEM POST
Two years after announcing its campus renewal project and a year after breaking ground, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, has proudly announced that construction is on schedule and that 90 percent of the $100 million needed for the project has already been provided.
Walking in a hard hat down wooden staircases and through giant spaces stripped down to their bare concrete walls - the occasional sawing and drilling noises competing with the voice of museum director James Snyder as he explains which museum wing each concrete box is going to become - makes the renewal very real.
Listening to the MoMA-trained director with the shock of white hair and round-rimmed glasses, one gets the sense that Snyder has the project under his thumb. He, however, gives due credit to deputy director Dor Lin and administrative deputy director Ephrat Pomerantz, who he says are on site every day making sure that the massive project involving five giant cranes is moving along at the necessary pace.
There are two main aspects to the renewal project. The first is to create a completely new approach from the entrance of the museum to the center of the museum campus. To do this, the museum has hired New York architect James Carpenter, who has worked on a variety of high-profile projects, such as the new Hearst headquarters (which involved saving the original facade of an existing building), the podium light wall of the Seven World Trade Center building in New York, a proposed multi-use sports enclosure for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Madison Square Garden renovation.
For the Israel Museum, Carpenter has created an architectural language that reflects the original modular approach created by Alfred Mansfeld for the museum - a Modernist take on an Arab village set into the Jerusalem hillside - but infuses a signature style that develops his own architectural statement. He has designed a series of glass-walled pavilions at the front of the museum that will include ticketing, retail and food services. To control the heat and sunlight, the pavilions will be surrounded by glazed terra cotta shutter-like frames, which will create shade while also letting in light during the day. At night, the spaces between the shutters will let incandescent light out of the pavilions, giving the museum entrance a moonlike sheen from afar.
Carpenter has also created a two-pronged approach from his entrance pavilion to Mansfeld's gallery pavilion - one along the original outdoor pathway that includes a number of staircases, and a second subterranean climate-controlled concourse that remains nearly on the same level as the entrance (making it barrier-free and wheelchair accessible) and ends at a sunken courtyard with a staircase, an escalator and an elevator leading up to the heart of the redesigned museum.
This second main aspect of the campus renewal - the reconstruction of the original museum complex from within - has been taken up by Tel Aviv-based Zvi Efrat of Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. Efrat, who is also the head of the architecture department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, has created a central circulation point from which all the museum's main exhibit wings - Archeology, Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, Fine Arts, and Temporary Exhibitions - are accessible on the same level.
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