Plan for New Bezalel Building in Downtown Jerusalem Unveiled

Plan envisions a building of about 40,000 square meters, and was enthusiastically received by the art school's Board of Governors.

Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima on Tuesday unveiled her plan for the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design's new home.

The plan envisions a building of about 40,000 square meters. Three quarters of that space will be above ground, with the remaining 10,000 square meters underground.

The plan is not yet finalized, but was presented at Tuesday's meeting of Bezalel's Board of Governors, where it was enthusiastically received.

The building will be located in the Russian Compound, adjacent to the Museum of the Underground Prisoners, and has been designed around a series of terraces that blend with the plot's topography. The terraces serve as balconies and also provide shade.

Sejima and her colleague, Ryue Nishizawa, decided to challenge the long-standing separation among the academy's eight departments by creating several common areas between the various departments. These spaces, Sejima explained on Tuesday, will encourage the students to meet, study together and show each other their work.

The building will have a foyer with a staircase that provides access to the Museum of the Underground Prisoners and other venues in the Russian Compound. The basement level will feature two large halls. One will be an auditorium, while the second will be an all-purpose area for teaching and presenting students' work.

The focus of the building's exterior will be outward, toward the surrounding streets, with the idea being to allow passersby to get a glimpse of the work being done inside Bezalel. In size, the new facility will be about 20 percent larger than Bezalel's current home.

Sejima and Nishizawa were chosen to design the building about a year and a half ago.

Ryue Nishizawa, left, and Kazuyo Sejima.
Yael Engelhart
Kazuyo Sejima
Yael Engelhart
Bezalel Academy
Emil Salman