Wiesenthal Center unveils new J'lem museum design

Museum of Tolerance will cost $150 million less than originally planned; Chyutin Architects design replaces one by Frank Gehry.

simon wiesenthal 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
simon wiesenthal 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has unveiled a new design by Chyutin Architects for its planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which will be built at an estimated cost of $100 million.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, the organization’s founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, laid out the plans for the museum’s building, which will include a theater seating up to 1,200 people, an education center and a massive glass wall opening to nearby Independence Park.
“We gave an opportunity to three different architectural firms and the board voted unanimously in favor of this design,” Hier said.
“Although the others were also fine designs, we were most impressed with this one.”
The Chyutin design replaces an earlier one by renowned architect Frank Gehry, whose estimated cost of $250m. dollars made it too expensive to build.
“We originally wanted to incorporate some of his design into the complex, but Frank said his work was like a sculpture and that if you take out some of the pieces the whole design falls apart,” Hier said.
Mickey Chyutin, head of the architectural firm, spoke about what he tried to convey in his vision for the museum.
“The overreaching message of tolerance manifests itself in the building’s dialogue with its surroundings – one which is founded on conspicuousness, rather than concealment,” he wrote in an email from Japan, where he is currently visiting. “This inviting edifice stands in the warm embrace of the city and park around it, shining as a jewel set to the Jerusalem skyline.”
Since the idea to open a Jerusalem branch of the Museum of Tolerance first emerged in 1993 at the behest of then-mayor Teddy Kollek, the planned cultural center has had a tortured history.
First, it was challenged by Palestinian petitioners who said it should be relocated, since its plot is on part of an old Muslim cemetery.
For years the project was bogged down in legal battles until the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Israel, which gave the land to the museum.
Still, some Palestinians, like Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi still actively object to the construction of the museum as well as the adjacent Jerusalem District Court – which, coincidentally, is also designed by Chyutin – on grounds that they represent human rights violations.
Second, the 2008 recession made donations harder to come by, leading to the Wiesenthal Center’s decision to abandon the expensive Gehry plan consisting of many different buildings.
“The new design’s price tag is under $100 million,” Hier said.
“Right now we have half of that sum, and we hope to raise the rest from donors during construction.”
Hier said he hoped to open the center by 2015.