J'lem leprosy hospital to morph into cultural complex

Site to host outstanding artists brought in each year by city; initial projects will be aimed at designing the space itself; center will contain galleries, library, and coffee shop.

hansen hospital jerusalem_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
hansen hospital jerusalem_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Plans to turn Jerusalem’s Hansen Government Hospital, once a treatment center for leprosy patients, into a cultural center took a significant step forward this week when the Jerusalem Municipality announced the imminent start of renovations.
The structure – located in the Talbiyeh neighborhood, not far from the Jerusalem Theater – dates back to 1887 and is set to become a public meeting place for the arts, media and technology.
In 2009, in honor of the 42nd anniversary of the capital’s reunification, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat received the complex as a gift from the government.
A leprosy plague in Jerusalem’s Old City over 120 years ago brought forth the dire need to create more places for treating the afflicted, and German architect Conrad Schick designed the majestic building. In 1948, the hospital become a governmental institution named for Norwegian researcher Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armeur Hansen, who discovered the agent that causes the disease. With the diminishing number of people suffering from the condition, the remaining patients were relocated to a smaller facility, and the building was designated for preservation.
Now, the municipality, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Foundation and the Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (JNF), has set out to remodel the central structure of the Hansen complex to contain an ensemble of outstanding artists who will live, create and present in the capital for a year, during which they will receive a scholarship from the city. The initial projects will be aimed at designing the space itself and bringing it to the awareness of the public, which will be able to attend and observe the creative process.
In one framework, called “Made in Hansen,” young artists will produce a television or cinematic piece, under the auspices of professionals. A professional enhancement center for designers in the fields of ceramics, smithery, industrial design and fashion will also be established. Master classes will be offered to the artists as well as the public, in hopes of turning the place into a center of “recreation, creation and inspiration,” according to an announcement from the municipality.
The complex will contain three galleries exhibiting the works, as well as a library focusing on media, video and design and an exhibition about the historic Hansen hospital. A store selling the exhibited art will be on site, too, along with a coffee shop.
“The Hansen hospital will turn into a leading cultural center, to the benefit of the city’s residents and students,” Barkat said. “The launch of the center is another step in developing Jerusalem as a cultural city that offers so much to young people.”