SANAA plans new campus for
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design


News: Japanese studio SANAA has presented designs for a new campus for Israel's leading design school within Jerusalem's historic Russian Compound.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design by SANAA

Scheduled for completion in 2017, the new 37,000 square-metre campus for the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design will be constructed in one of Jerusalem's oldest districts, between the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Museum of Underground Prisoners.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design by SANAA

Architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA are working alongside local firm Nir-Kutz Architects on the design of the building, which is intended to encourage collaboration between the eight traditionally separate departments of the school.

Bezalel New Campus by SANAA

Classrooms and studios will be arranged over a series of staggered horizontal slabs that correspond with the site's natural topography. Numerous ramps and staircases will connect the split levels, while voids in the floorplates will create balconies between floors and increase natural light.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design by SANAA

The plans also include a pair of auditoriums, public exhibition galleries and cafes for both students and visitors.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design by SANAA

Construction is expected to commence at the end of next year, made possible by a $25 million donation from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design by SANAA
Site plan - click for larger image

Sejima and Nishizawa, who were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2010, have also recently completed a circular production hall at the Vitra Campus in Germany and a sister gallery to the Musée du Louvre in France.

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Here's a project description from the design team:

The site of the new campus for the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is located on the top of a hill in the Russian Compound, overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. The Academy includes several departments comprised of studios, classrooms, workshops and administration offices and of public areas such as exhibition galleries, a store, a café and a cafeteria.

The building is composed of slabs. The slabs are stacked following the natural gradient of the landscape, and all are at different levels. Throughout both the exterior and the interior of the building, the slabs are connected through ramps and stairs so that it is possible to walk freely from one to the other, moving horizontally and vertically.

On the exterior, the slabs connect to form a terraced roof overlooking the city. On the interior, the slabs are detached from one another to create vertical void spaces throughout the building. The void spaces allow visual connection between different parts of the program that are hosted on each slab. As a consequence, each part of the building maintains its independence, but at the same time is fully connected with all other parts. Because of the layout of the slabs, natural light can filter freely through the building both from above and from the sides, penetrating also in those spaces that sit in the middle of the largest footprint areas.

The scale of the building is determined by its context and by its program. The volume is composed to fit properly within the city of Jerusalem and, at the same time, accommodate the spaces necessary for students and faculty of the Academy to work comfortably. The building also fits into the natural context as it mimics the terraced landscape, and resonates with its colour and texture.

  • WOW

    WOW. A big WOW from me!

  • I think this is really great. As far as I’m concerned, architecture only needs two ingredients: humbleness and care for everything involved. This building is invisible in terms of gestures and architect’s personality noise. It just uses the simplest of means to create space. It’s friendly to its surroundings.

    Interiors are not on display, but one can only expect them to be as good as the rest. This sort of dissolved architecture is possibly the best we can do.

    • Trey

      IMHO it is purposely designed to disappear, as it should given the context. Even the roof colour refers back to the beautiful Russian compound.

  • a jerusalemite

    A parking lot with oscillating slabs! Yay!

  • Riccardo

    Very similar to Herzog & de Meuron in Sao Paolo (and I prefer the Sao Paolo project).

  • k_r

    Is all that clear glass really the right material for such a hot, sunny environment? I appreciate the intention to incorporate the existing surrounding structures and landscape into the design through the use of colour and terracing, but what a waste of energy on air conditioning.

  • M mm

    Really, really dull. Concrete slabs, concrete columns, some glass. SANAA at their worst. I love their work so much but it’s such a heartbreak to see such mediocrity today.

  • Silky Johnson

    Looks like the classic bad student’s project. Very disappointed.

    • Bad Student

      Well if a bad student can get a Pritzker there is hope for me yet!

  • student

    I sure hope I never win the Pritzker prize, because once you do, people will complain about everything you do. Before that, you can do no wrong. Good thing I probably won’t!

  • david samuel

    Looks like a fake Richard Meier building designed by a second year student, no?

    • Olgiati

      No, nothing like it. No grid. No Corbusian references. Nada. Oh I suppose it’s white and modern. Is that what you mean?

  • Chris Collaris

    Never seen such thick SANAA pilars.

  • Getoverit

    Very original design. Will age horribly. Take your pick.

  • Allan

    Let’s give SANAA some time. Maybe it clears up in some time like many masterpieces before have. SANAA deserves it, I think. Let’s hope to get surprised.

  • Byron

    If the intent is to “fit in” to the context, this project could be more appealing to do so literally rather than to use a minimalist approach and sort of abstract the character of the neighboring architecture.

    There is nothing wrong with stylised architecture in the right place, and this project has a lot of development still to come. I think contemporary architecture should identify itself and when desired it can even say hi to its neighbors, but it should never teeter between contemporary and traditional or it may suffer the consequences of “trying” to “fit in”.

  • Rb

    In the world of Sanaa, glass has no reflective properties.