Construction of Museum of Tolerance could begin soon

Architectural firm denies that museum owns rights to design, says it will go to court.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
January 12, 2012 06:47
2 minute read.
Courtesy, rendition of proposed museum.

Museum of Tolerance 311 REAL Courtesy. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Construction on the controversial Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MOTJ) is expected to begin in the coming weeks, despite a number of setbacks including the resignation of the architects.

According to Museum of Tolerance officials, the museum is awaiting the permit to begin digging the foundation, which they expect to receive within the next few weeks.

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The Chyutin Architects firm resigned from the project in September due to “disagreements over planning,” said Michael Chyutin, one of the partners along with his wife Bracha. MOTJ spokesman Lior Chorev said that the disagreement was over finances.

Chorev added that they did not expect the resignation to affect the project’s progress, which will use the Chyutin design.

“We have the contractual rights to continue with the design, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “A new team of architects will look over this process, but we’re going full steam ahead.”

This is the third time the museum will have to look for an architect. Following the economic recession that dried up donations, the Wiesenthal Center scrapped the original building plan, which was designed by architecture superstar Frank Gehry, in favor of a $150-million cheaper version offered by Tel Aviv-based Chyutin Architects, which was revealed in September of 2010.

Chyutin denied that MOTJ owns the rights to their designs, and said they expected to fight over the issue in court.



“[Resigning from the project] was really hard for us, it was not an easy step. It wasn’t just about a financial loss, it was also losing the prestige of building in an important place and an important building. It’s not every day in your life you get a project like this, but there are lines that an architect needs to know not to cross.”

The museum is expected to take approximately four years to build after the digging starts.

The museum’s location has drawn the ire of Arab leaders, who claim the site opposite Independence Park is a 12thcentury cemetery. Palestinian American activist Prof. Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University is leading a group of 60 Muslim families with relatives buried in the cemetery to halt the construction.

The Wiesenthal Center was engaged in a four-year legal battle over the location with Arab activists. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the State of Israel, which gave the land to the museum.

According to the Chyutin plans, the Museum of Tolerance will include an amphitheater, exhibit halls, classrooms, a stone plaza and a parking lot. As part of the project, the Wiesenthal Center will also renovate Hatulot Square.

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