Under the Surface…

Moving The Bezalel School of Art and Design to Jerusalem’s Russian Court has a clear intention of intensifying the activity in the city center as an act of urban preservation.

The Russian Court in Jerusalem constitutes a compound of buildings built by Russian pilgrims during the 19th century. The compound, built on a slope, encompasses a courtyard. The buildings are arranged around a church by order of importance, the church, which functions as the compound’s core, allows the surrounding buildings to remain visually connected. A model of the compound from 1872 shows pedestrian paths crossing in between the buildings thus creating a series of trajectories generating a system of passage.

The central courtyard no longer fulfills it’s function and therefore has ceased to exist; it has become an urban void serving mainly as a parking lot through which pedestrians struggle to cross on their way to the old buildings of the compound, now housing the Court of Justice, a police station, The Museum of Resistance, and The Jerusalem Municipality. The site also serves as a shortcut between two main streets in the center of the Jerusalem: Jaffa St. and Shivtei Israel St.

The proposed building should be perceived as a thriving urban park that redefines the contour of the surrounding buildings by contrasting their geometry, position and height. Its continuous composition of undulating surfaces creates a unifying force as well as a place of activity accommodating meeting points, shortcuts and views. . Visual continuity of internal and external spaces blurs the boundaries between the private and public. The project creates a new space for an environment dedicated to questioning and experimenting formal, spatial and material solutions suiting a school of Art, Architecture and Design.

First act of design: Establishment of VISUAL CONNECTIONS between all buildings surrounding the void.

Second act: TRANSFORMATION of visual connections into structural elements of support and access.

Third act: Simulated eruption of ground from beneath assuming the physical shape of the project.

Fourth act: The “visual trajectories” weave through the seething mass defining its height and breadth, PRESERVING the existing views between the surrounding buildings.

Design, Distribution & Programmatic Concepts:

1. Distribution:
Each department is arranged in a concentrated area of one or two floors linking all of them to level -1.The design studios are placed in such a way as to maximize natural light filtering through the curvilinear surfaces or through glass floors at street level.

2. Unifying Elements:
Above: a “dry garden” at the street level allows pedestrians to pass through the site using the projects “trajectories”, thus experiencing a variety of situations through different elevations and creating informal meeting places for students and the general population to mingle.

Below: Level -1 concentrates common spaces functioning as an important meeting place for students and faculty. These include the library, the canteen, common classrooms, workshops, auditorium and indoor & outdoor spaces.

3. Glass and Stone:
Combined in a horizontal rhythm, glass and stone let in light and ventilation through the different elevations of the building.

4. Visual Establishment
Positioning the buildings highest peaks on both extremes of the site (north- south), thus framing the view of the church with the softly undulating slopes of rolling hills.

Year: 2007
Size: 30,000 sqm
Team: Heidi Arad, Sharon Karlinsky, Boaz Karo

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