Located in the heart of Jerusalem, next to Israel’s government assembly building, the second prize winning proposal in the Jerusalem Museum of Nature & Science competition creates a vibrant flexible building that integrates seamlessly into the landscape and urban setting. Designed by MYS Architects, their design approach was sustainability driven from the get go. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The project includes a new combined home for the Jerusalem science museum and the City’s nature museum. The site is also located next to the National Museum which is the country’s most important art and history museum, and the new National Library site. The site presented great challenges. The site, albeit being in an area of high public interest, is disconnected from the city urban fabric. A “rift” exists between three different urban strips caused by topography, lack of cross paths and absence of “city-life” fostering streetscapes.
The site, though located in the city center, is a part of an “urban nature sequence” – A series of green open areas made of natural and man-made gardens, which form habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals. The urban goal of the project was to act as a connector between the Hebrew University to the west, the government buildings to the east and the museums boulevard to the north and south. A building whose mission is to pass the knowledge of nature and science will better convey it’s message if it is an integral part of the existing ecosystem.
The concept for the building draws inspiration from nature. The Earth’s crust and landscape is shaped by natural geological forces such as plate tectonics, erosion and weathering. Likewise, the building’s shape will take its form as a result of the buildings inner forces (i.e. the brief requirements and circulation demands) and outer urban forces. (i.e. topography, natural settings, and built environment context) The resulting geometry forms continuous spaces for exhibitions inside, and new public places on the outside – Places that are the museum interface with the city and neighboring streets.
By folding the museums main façade inward, a public entrance piazza is created as a place for formal and informal gatherings. A new pedestrian pathway that connects the two almost parallel streets running alongside the site is formed by lifting the building mass above the piazza level, creating a much needed east-west passage which improves accessibility between city blocks. And finally, the public rooftop garden which is an extension of the nearby tree grove, creates yet another public linkage running north-south, between the grove park and existing Science Museum building. All are intended to reweave the site together, and attract people in, on or thru the museum.
The brief spaces allocation was made with simple logic: Keep science functions near the existing Science museum, have the Nature wing connect to nature and the preserved grove, while placing all public functions in the center, between the two wings. The main lobby hall is located on the raised floor, above the public passage and piazza. Visitors entering the building ascend via a staircase to the entrance hall and from there they can start their journey to the two museum wings – science and nature. The two wings are designed with different approaches to the relations between the exhibition halls and circulation elements.
The science wing circulation elements are designed to face outward and organized on the circumference of the building, allowing movement to be visible from the piazza. The exhibition halls, that require a more introverted neutral space are located in the inner part of the floor, and form “white box” spaces, that allow better control over lighting, ventilation and mechanical installations requirements.
The nature wing has exhibition halls facing outward with strong connection to nature while circulation is centralized around an elongated atrium. The atrium, which is formed by rifts in the floor plates create a wadi-like space that allow for easy orientation, let natural light penetrate deep into the display spaces and help induce natural ventilation. Lining one side of the atrium is a spectacular life-like web display wall, dubbed “The Living-Wall”.
The Living Wall is a 3 dimensional mesh that creates a “hyper-display” wall, which transcends all galleries themes and binds them together, while giving the visitors a visual “backbone” and a common ground to start or end each gallery “tour”. This exuberant surface can hold displays, video art, interactive surfaces and paths of exploration. The visitors are enticed to walk in front of it, through it, and interact with it. It is the focal point (or surface) of the museum.
The planetarium is located at the southern corner of the building, creating strong visual presence, inside and out. The sphere, despite being quite a large mass, is the designed to “touch” the ground lightly, and supported by the bridges going in and out of the planetarium hall. At night, video art projections would create an illusion of orbital movement and levitation. The conference center containing an auditorium and classrooms is located on the lower level, under the entrance piazza, allowing direct access from it. This allows conference center events to take place regardless of museum activities or opening hours.
The building has two distinct facades that react to their orientation and context: The “Nature Side” – The north east facing façade, which edges the grove park, is designed as transparent low profile facade that is almost hidden in the midst of trees. It is shaped to create a semi-enclosed open space where the building nestles the garden from one side while the grove slope and trees on the other. Here the museum in only a backdrop to the natural elements of fauna and flora.
The “Urban Side” – The south-west façade, facing the Museums Boulevard and main entrance piazza has a more predominant appearance. A stone louvered façade defines the museum boulevard edge, lining the street and folding inward to create the entrance piazza. The stone clad façade, which is a typical Jerusalem feature that uses limestone cladding, (and has long been a mandatory city regulation in Jerusalem), has a common language with adjacent museum and government buildings. The museum façade utilizes stone as exterior finish not in the common use as a vertical surface, that is impermeable and covers the façade, but rather as a horizontal, louver-like surface. This creates a translucent stone veil that allows natural light to permeate into the galleries while preventing solar gain. Variations in louvers density can further enhance lighting effects in the galleries, while creating a raster like image of stone cliffs from a far.
The living roof
The museum’s green roof is designed as a ground plane that was “peeled up” from the grove and put on top of the building. In that way, visitors walking in the park would find themselves on top of the museum without realizing where the park ended and the museum began. This is one of the features that blur boundaries between museum and nature, private and public, man-made and natural. The museums roof is divided into two bands. One is an open public linear garden, which is both recreational and educational. As people walk on it, even if not intended to enter the museum, take part and can explore parts of the museum’s extroverted themes. It is the public interface of the museum and a place for play and rest.
The other roof band is essentially the outdoor annex of the museum. The living roof gardens act as an outdoor exhibition area and testing grounds for plants growing, solar experiments and bird watching activities. The museum educational center is located on the top floor next to the roof so it could also serve as an external educational center, further increasing its connection to the community. The green roof ecological contribution is immense. It absorbs the heat of the summer sun while creating an isolation buffer in the winter. It also collects rainwater which is then transferred to the garden pond and ecological pool where greywater is cleansed as well. The green roof, alongside the museum gardens, restores and enriches existing ecosystem, creating more than 13,000 square meters of habitat.
The museum’s design, through its dynamic shape and context sensitive facades, exuberant inner spaces and generous public places is truly sustainable in all fields. While providing exhibition spaces for exploration and education, it aims not just to coexist with its surroundings, but to enrich and improve it as well.
Architects: MYS Architects
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Project Leaders: Eran Ziv, Meidan Gany
Competition Team: Rachel Feller, Shemtov Tzrouya, Gabi Singer-Vitale, Leonardo Harf, Igor Shevchenko, Adi Aharon
Area: 17,500 sqm