Despite Architects' Rage, Competition to Design Israel's New National Library Moves Forward

Competition organizers angered architects by allowing eight firms to bypass first round, while forcing others to pass through initial cull.

Over the vocal protests of hundreds of Israeli architects, the National Library is moving forward with a controversial competition to select a firm to design its new home.

Earlier this year, over 750 Israeli architects called on the organizers of the competition to call it off and launch a new one. The architects were angered by the fact that eight firms from Israel and abroad were invited to proceed directly to the second round of the competition, while all other Israeli firms were required to go through a first round of selections.

library - Bar-On - 2.5.12
Daniel Bar-On

The architects said the competition violated the principles of equality and anonymity, with Arad Sharon, one of the initiators of the petition, calling it a "colossal humiliation."

The new $100 million facility will be one of Israel's largest public construction projects over the next decade, and the contest has attracted considerable attention in Israel and overseas.

This week, Haaretz has learned, four architecture firms were chosen to proceed to the second stage of the competition. The four firms will compete against the eight previously selected firms.

Eighty-one firms participated in the first stage of the competition. Before judging the submissions, members of the jury toured the site of the future building and were briefed regarding the vision for the renewal of the library by David Bloomberg, who chairs its board of directors.

"The jury was impressed by the diversity of the participants' approaches, the meticulous quality of many of the submissions and the high level of professionalism of many of them," said committee chairman Prof. Luis Fernàndez-Galiano.

The architects chosen to compete in the second stage of the competition are: Gil Even-Tsur, an Israeli architect living in New York, Daniel Assayag of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv's Zarhy Architects and Dr. Rafi Segal, who also lives in the U.S. and teaches at Harvard and Cooper Union.

The plan is for the new National Library to open around 2017. It is slated to be built in Jerusalem's National Precinct, near the Knesset, the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University.

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