Israel's Rejuvenation Of The National Library Of Jerusalem

Reading Room,  © 2016, Herzog & de Meuron Basel
Reading Room, © 2016, Herzog & de Meuron Basel
Photo of Deborah Moher
8 January 2017

An ambitious plan was recently revealed for a complete renovation of Jerusalem’s National Library. The library currently sits between the Israel Museum and the Knesset in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. This impressive modernization will be designed and managed by famed Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron after beating out Israeli architect Rafi Segal and other noted firms.

The planned project is expected to take over four years with plans for a reveal in 2020. The National Library was founded in 1892 and since 1925 has been housed in the Givat Ram campus of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The project has plans to build a huge complex with exhibition spaces, eating venues, an auditorium, bookstore, and a youth center. The impressive complex will allow researchers and visitors to take advantage of the library’s extensive collections of archives, valuable manuscripts and the many works by famous writers.

Kaplan Main Entry Reading Room | © 2016, Herzog & de Meuron Basel

This rejuvenation will focus on modernizing the cultural institution with plans for a six story building measuring 45,000 square meters. As in the past, books will remain at the center. They form a foundation and necessary balance against constant technological change. Books root the building to the ground and will be visible throughout. Vitrine-like elements form the bottom two floors and display the library’s content and activities to the street.

Ruppin Elevation at Night | © 2016, Herzog & de Meuron Basel

Above, a carved space containing stone binds the project together and reflects the massive quality of Jerusalem’s historical architecture, the scale of the adjacent buildings, and the shape of the site. The stone is not just sculptural. The elevated mass provides shade while its mineral construction adds thermal mass to insulate the interior spaces. The form is strong but humble to its surroundings and the environment. The design responds to the context and reflects the ambitions of the National Library of Israel: it is open and transparent but grounded in the traditions of great libraries and the city itself.

Reading Room | © 2016, Herzog & de Meuron Basel