The National Library of Israel is finally back on track. While Israeli architect Rafi Segal was originally awarded the project, he was dismissed after a copyright challenge from some of his ex-colleagues at the Harvard School of Design. The library’s new designers, Herzog & de Meuron, have just released their first images of the Jerusalem-based public institution. The Swiss firm was awarded the contract in April 2013, four months after Segal was dismissed. Herzog & de Meuron’s concept is described as strong and sculptural and is being developed in partnership with local firm Shinar Architects.
The library will be clad in stone and built over six stories, although four stories will be below ground. In addition to the public-access library, the institution will have a climate-controlled archive, research laboratories, a visitors’ center and educational facilities, as well as office space. Herzog & de Meuron stated: “Our project reflects the open and transparent ambitions of the National Library of Israel. The strong, sculptural form of the stone, related to the specific topography and context of the site, is elevated off the ground, and situated above vitrine-like elements. The stone contains a large open space for the library’s visitors and users to interact while the vitrines expose the collection, reading room and public functions to the street and adjacent surroundings.”
The library will be situated in the same precinct as the Israel Museum, the Science Museum and the Hebrew University, with construction expected to start in 2016. Chairman of the board of directors of the National Library, David Bloomberg, announced that the building will “become the leading institution in the country in collecting and preserving the treasures of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.”