The Polonsky Academy Building is the newly added building of the Van Leer Institute campus in Jerusalem. The Institute fosters innovative interdisciplinary research, developing ways of facing new questions of global concern and addressing the place of Israel in a rapidly transforming Middle East. It seeks for better understanding of the region and its peoples, strengthening ties between Jews and Arabs, based on recognition and empathy.
Project Name: Polonsky Academy
Studio Name: Chyutin Architects
The Academy Building services the needs of its postdoctoral fellows as well as of others in the Van Leer scholarly community. On its upper two floors, it holds the fellows’ individual offices, as well as various seminar rooms where they can participate in communal sessions of intellectual exchange. On the two bottom floors, which are dug into the cliff, facilities for general campus use are located.
The Academy Building provides contemporary interpretation on the architectural characteristics of the campus’s older buildings, respecting their dignified, subtle, horizontal appearance and their relation to green areas within the campus and the built environment surrounding it. Similar to the existing buildings, the new building opens transparent facades incorporating concrete elements and recycled wooden screen towards the inner campus garden, while overlooking the urban surrounding with monolithic stone facades with scarce openings. The existing buildings are structured around a system of internal courtyards, which are characteristic of the regional architecture in general, and Jerusalem architecture in particular. The academy building transports the courtyards motif into its very structure, bringing variety of daylight, ventilation and nature into its interior spaces. The courtyards are framed by stone trellises (“Mashrabia” in Arabic) facing Jerusalem cityscape and wooden louvres facing the central green square of the campus.
The Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, is the leading international postdoctoral program in Israel. Its building serves as an academic home for outstanding scholars from around the world, and foster interaction between them and the scholarly community. Their individual offices are located on the two upper floors alongside the upper lobby used for academic and social activities. The researchers’ rooms are grouped in six clusters, between them courtyards are situated, acting as an informal outdoor meeting spaces. These courtyards allow outside views of Jerusalem through the prefab concrete units cladded with Hebron limestone of the “mashrabia”. Opposite to the researchers’ rooms, the seminars with their courtyards are located, floating over the central green square of the campus. The seminar’ courtyards allow a measure of openness to the campus landscape from within the building, allowing both to penetrate each other.
The beautiful Jerusalem daylight reaches the semi underground two bottom floors spaces, through the upper lobby’s roof and the building’s internal courtyards. These floors host facilities such as the institute central library and cafeteria, a lecture hall, a multipurpose hall, an exhibition space, a fitness club and administration offices. While entering the lower floors from the central green square of the campus, visitors are exposed to the library’s reading room, indicating its importance in the academic life of the campus, The central cafeteria is located near the lower entrance to the building, having its outdoor space facing the main green square and serving as a focal area of the social life of the campus.