UNStudio is an international award-winning firm specializing in creating designs that have a lasting impact and have urban and climatic importance. The Hebrew Museum was a design proposal that received special recommendation which was put forward for a Hebrew language Academy and Museum in Jerusalem, Israel for the Academy of the Hebrew Language.
Once known to be the dead language not spoken in daily life for over 2,000 years, its revitalisation became an ‘inspirational model for others whose languages are no longer spoken.’ The design proposal by UNStudio celebrates the resurgence of the Hebrew Language.
Concept and Design Philosophy.
The concept originated from the fascination with the Hebrew language. Hebrew, an ancient language with an unbroken literary tradition, is called the living language because of its spread in space and time into the depth of history. The design idea communicated the power of language to bind any unrelated outlanders to form a cohesive environment that understands each other. The building exhibits language as a tool to “understand the past, live the present, and shape the future” through its design. The academy’s mission to nurture and develop the language is attained through the rich layers and the unspoken characteristics of the building.
Design and Planning
The entire project is planned to spread across an area of 6600m2 achieving a gross floor area of 11,000 m2. A division of user traffic is evident from the positioning of the training block away from the majorly occupied public spaces on Site. The horizontal volume created in the elevation acts as a strong feature of the proposal. Its compact design helps in the smooth function and construction of the structure.The museum is designed to merge its landscape with the Givat Ram neighborhood that contains some of the most important and prestigious institutions of Israel along with government complexes
The planning by UNStudio puts the large open courtyard metaphorically called and functions as Hebrew Language Plaza at the center of the project complex that performs as a gathering space bringing people from different backgrounds to mingle with each other, thus proving the purpose of the language of connecting with people. Hebrew being the key to communication without the necessity of a written translation, the courtyard also forms an element that functions and adapts to its users.
The Hebrew language Plaza is a major viewpoint from different parts of the site. It can be accessed from various exits of the academy and acts as the major focal point of the academy complex and one of the most important structures that connect the important functional areas of the site. The Academy can be accessed from Weiz street, whereas the main museum entrance is through the park to the east. This kind of planning by UNStudio keeps privacy for all academy sections yet links everything to the plaza.
Hebrew had almost died as Armenian was slowly replacing it among the vast Jewish population, and the entire museum experience expresses this historical notion of reviving the language. UNStudio brings the visitor through an underground tunnel that merges with the central courtyard plaza. From which is a vertical connection that ascends to the museum space. The connectivity and movement within the site show the extinction and revival of the Hebrew language. This exaggerated and rhythmic experience from the central gathering space to the museum tells of the history of the Hebrew language.
As per UNStudio, the foundation for the entire building forms on site was the ‘horizontality’ of the syllable in Hebrew. The graphic flow created by the space between the syllables became the positive negative space in the building form, where this character was embraced to create flowing voids horizontally. This architecture in written Hebrew brought into the building form is understood by the visitor once they begin their journey through the exterior and interior spaces.
The personae of the building lived in the rhythm of the Hebrew language. The profound change in the mellow tone from the soft, gentle religious poetry to a less gentle daily spoken dialect is expressed in every square foot of the building. This duality creates a strong personality among those who view the site from afar. The volume of the entire site looks dynamic, and the undulated ceiling and terrace form an area for landscaping and greenery. The ceiling forms an integrated part of the structure, as with the sound insulations, sections of Hebrew poetry are crafted.
UNStudio kept the comfort and well-being of the users at the front and came up with a smooth functional design while keeping in mind the sustainability factor achieved through the circular materials that are polymer based materials that helps in the minimisation of non-sustainable materials.
In conclusion, the design proposal by UNStudio for the New Hebrew Language Academy and museum is a remarkable example of innovative and sustainable architecture that reflects the culture of the Hebrew language and the Jewish people. The contrast of the rigid structure with its fluid facade and ceilings and the conceptual use of every space concerning the significance of the Hebrew language makes it a unique and striking addition to the Givat Ram Neighbourhood and marks another significant role in the eternal existence of Hebrew language in the minds of the future generation.
Projects (no date) UNStudio. Available at: https://www.unstudio.com/en/page/8248/projects (Accessed: March 19, 2023).
Freeburg, E. and Bowern, C. (2013) The Cost of Revival: the Role of Hebrew in Jewish Language Endangerment. dissertation.
Kalaitzidou, K. (no date) Circular Material.