Internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind arrived Sunday at Bar-Ilan University for the dedication of the Wohl Center, which he designed for the university campus.
This is the first building in Israel designed by Libeskind, whose work includes the acclaimed Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan design for New York's Ground Zero.
Libeskind attended the dedication with architect Nina Libeskind, his wife and partner.
The skeleton of the Wohl Center, on the university's North Campus, consists of a huge box in the shape of an open book, which is supported by a spine made of two rectangular boxes. The center will serve as a venue for conferences, as well as a cultural venue for university and community events.
In a press conference preceding the dedication, Libeskind said the building embodied the interrelation between the dynamics of knowledge and the unifying role of faith. The building's central book form is penetrated by a labyrinthine structure of windows, which are shaped like Hebrew letters that follow the geometry of the building and reach into the auditorium at its center.
"I love Hebrew letters," said Libeskind, recalling a passage in the Talmud where they are referred to as "golden doves with silver feet." "They're not just graphic signs, they're imbued with history," he said.
"This is the first auditorium that has a truly Jewish construction," Libeskind said.
The Wohl Center was constructed thanks to the support of Maurice and Vivienne Wohl and is dedicated to the memory of Vivienne, who died earlier this year.
"I wanted this building to be both symbolic and functional, and to refer to Jewish tradition," Libeskind said later in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Like a Jewish text subjected to generations of interpretation and exegesis, the building is "composed of layers of experience that form a commentary, and of voids that leave open spaces for interpretation," Libeskind said. Like a book, he added, the building offers multiple ways of entering it and reading it.
"We cannot reverse history," said Libeskind, who has won acclaim in recent years for the innovative ways in which he has used architecture to come to terms with history and collective memory. "But we can create new experiences in space through which we can read history.
"We did not choose the easy way," Libeskind said, addressing the engineering challenges involved in building the Wohl Center. "The engineering holds the building together, while the architecture propels it into the world of culture. You can calculate proportions and measurements," he said, "but you cannot calculate a building's atmosphere - the thing that makes the difference between something that is just a lot of weight and something that is meaningful."
Speaking of the building's exterior, which is coated in panels of gold-colored aluminum, Libeskind said that people around him were initially "afraid," but that he thought the gold "looked great against the Mediterranean sky."