Designed by o2a studio, the man-made structure for the Natural History Museum in Jerusalem is designated to celebrate the transcendent force and majesty of nature, which is a contradiction in terms. The paradoxical question that arises when approaching the design of a building that is dedicated as a showcase for the unbuilt, is how does one bridge this conceptual gap between the man-made and the organic – between the artificial and the natural. The proposal aims to highlight this difficulty, while allowing for a composite coexistence between the natural and the artificial – interpreted here as ranging between various degrees of control. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Any act of building by default stands as an opposition to the environment, finding itself in a constant struggle against its natural surroundings. The question of what is considered natural and what is regarded as artificial is an ambiguous matter, essentially contextual, cultural and philosophical in its understanding.
Drawing from the Karst geology prevalent in the site, the museum is designed as a largely underground complex, creating a subterranean human flow of museum-goers in contrast to the natural flow of the topography above ground. A series of open dolines (Karstic sinkholes) create a vertical connection between the museum and the open landscape occupying its roof, and allowing light and air to pour into the museum spaces underneath. A number of these dolines are occupied by perforated red steel boxes housing different programs of the museum. Dotting the scenery above, these boxes highlight their artificiality, standing in sharp contrast to the green setting on the roof of the museum.
From Ruppin Boulevard, the site is preserved as an open green landscape, providing the city with a vast public space freely accessible to all, and as a direct continuation of the public promenade planned for this artery. From the Museum Boulevard (Burla Street), the museum presents an iconic facade comprised of CNC-cut stone panels with a glass backdrop. This facade of fabricated trees stands in juxtaposition to the natural foliage of the site and underlines the contrast between the man-made and the organic. On the interior, the facade produces a dynamic forest of shadows, minimizing sun glare while allowing for fleeting glimpses of the outside.
The plan of the museum itself is an echo of the municipal lot lines – arguably a nature in its own accord -tracing the statutory archeology of the site into its form. Together with the green open spaces inhabiting its roof, the museum introduces a multifaceted display of variation between the notion of the artificial and the natural, establishing a site at once both domesticated and wild – a Second Nature.
Architects: o2a studio
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Team Members: Omer Barr, Amit Mandelkern, Michal Barash
Building Area: 20,000m2
Site Area: 40,000m2