The cornerstone laying ceremony for the new National Library in Jerusalem took place on Tuesday at its future site at the government complex in the city’s Givat Ram neighborhood. The building is expected to be completed in 2020 and will replace the old library, which stands on the Hebrew University campus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein attended the ceremony.
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The government transferred the construction of the library building to Yad Hanadiv, a philanthropic foundation of the Rothschild family, in 2010. The project got underway after a few years of delays caused by the cancellation of the original competition for selecting the architects. It is being planned by the Pritzker Prize-winning architectural firm of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, in cooperation with the Israeli firm Mann Shinar Architects. Herzog and de Meuron have been working on the project for the past two and a-half years. The Tate Modern Museum in London and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing are among the buildings planned by the firm. The cost of the project is estimated at $200 million, which will cover the construction expenses as well as the extensive digitization of the collections.
The area of the museum will be 45,000 square meters above and below ground. It will be located on the slope between Ruppin Boulevard and Kaplan Street, between the Knesset and the Israel Museum. The roof will be curved so as not to hide the view of the Knesset building and a large rounded skylight will be located above the main reading room in the center of the building. The building's covering will feature a mixture of limestone and concrete, creating a modern interpretation of Jerusalem stone.
At the event, President Rivlin said that “laying the cornerstone is a day of celebration for every book lover. The return to the land of Israel is not only a process of physical return but also one involving ideas, the spirit and culture.” He added that “the library is a place that makes accessible, revives and develops the treasures of the Jewish people in accordance with the founders’ vision.”
“The open spaces of my childhood years are gradually disappearing from the landscape," Netanyahu said at the ceremony. "I take comfort in the fact that those spaces are being put to worthy use. Government and court buildings, temples of art and cultural institutions have been built in their stead — the government complex is an expression of the creative spirit.”