Israeli Architects Want to Revamp Contest to Plan National Library in Jerusalem

Dan Eytan, a winner of the Rechter Prize for Architecture, says competition violates the principles of equality and anonymity.

Israeli architects are calling on planners of the new National Library building in Jerusalem to call off the current competition to choose an architect for the structure and to launch a new contest.

The architects are protesting the fact that the competition organizers, Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation ) and the National Library Construction Company, invited eight architectural firms from Israel and abroad to go directly to the second round of the competition. All other Israeli firms must go through a first round of selection, from which at most four firms will advance to the second round.

Daniel Bar-On

The architects are also protesting the Israel Association of United Architects' sponsorship of the competition, even though no member was included in the panel of judges.

By Monday night, 145 architects had signed an internet petition calling for the change.

"The terms of the competition constitute a death blow for the architectural sector," architect Arad Sharon, one of the petition's initiators, told Haaretz. "This [competition] is a colossal humiliation."

Dan Eytan, a winner of the Rechter Prize for Architecture, said the competition violated the principles of equality and anonymity.

The Israeli architectural firms invited directly to the second round are Chyutin; Ada Karmi-Melamede; Mayslits-Kassif and Carlos Prus. The international firms are: Shigeru Ban (Japan ); Bohlin, Cywinski and Jackson (United States ); David Chipperfield (United Kingdon ) and Moshe Safdie (United States ).

The protesters noted that Prus and Safdie are closely linked, with Prus supervising many of Safdie's projects in Israel, while Karmi-Melamede was a shoo-in for the short list, having planned the Supreme Court Building in Jerusalem - also underwritten by Yad Hanadiv.

The National Library Construction Company said that "all over the world, for projects of this type it is customary to invite international architects [to participate]. Israel has outstanding architects, and the contest is structured to give Israelis a numerical advantage in the second round, with eight Israeli firms as opposed to four international ones."

The competition opened last week and is to last eight months. The plan is to inaugurate the library in five years. The library will be built in Jerusalem's National Precinct, near the Knesset, the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University.