Wiesenthal Center Continues Work on Museum of Tolerance After Architects Quit

The Chyutins tell Haaretz that one of the reasons for their decision is the replacement of the project manager, for reasons that were never explained.

The architects of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem have become the latest planners to quit the project, Haaretz has learned. In October, Bracha and Michael Chyutin had threatened to leave over what they called a "business disagreement" with the the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which initiated and is funding the museum.

Excavations for the project began only recently, and the Chyutins and Wiesenthal Center have not been in communication with each other since the threatened resignation, according to the Chyutins.

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The husband-wife team have designed many public buildings in Israel and were hired to design the Museum of Tolerance after the original architect, Los Angeles-based Frank Gehry, bowed out. The Chyutins were awarded the job after winning a closed design competition sponsored by the Wiesenthal Center. They submitted a new design for the structure in October 2010, and began applying to the Jerusalem Municipality for the required permits.

According to the Wiesenthal Center, the new plan was intended to reflect "the current global economic situation," costing only $100 million.

The plan includes exhibition spaces, an education center, a theater, an auditorium, offices, a restaurant and a gift shop.

The Chyutins told Haaretz that one of the reasons for their decision was the replacement of the project manager, for reasons that were never explained. A municipal official told Haaretz in September that the problems were due to "differences of thought," adding that Wiesenthal Center officials "drove the architects crazy and demanded daily briefings."

The architects said that after they threatened to quit, they sought to reach an amicable agreement with the center. "To our surprise and regret until today, around three and a half months after [turning in] our resignation, the Wiesenthal Center has not contacted us in any manner, and apparently is in no rush to carry out the project," the Chyutins said in a statement.

The Wiesenthal Center rejected the claims and said in a statement that the Chyutins decided on their own to end all involvement in the museum.

"This is a business dispute between a customer and a service provider, and the newspaper is not the place to air it. Our contract contains an arbitration clause, but the Chyutins chose not to use it," the center said.

Officials at the center said that they own the architectural copyright to the building and that they intend to work with another architect to complete the project using the Chyutins' design.

It would be the first time in Israel that a major public structure was built using the design of an architect who was not actively involved in the construction.

The Chyutins said in a response that they hold all the exclusive intellectual, moral, commercial and reproduction rights to the designs for the museum, including digital and print versions. "Israeli law determines the procedure used in replacing an architect who quits," the statement said.