2012       The National Library of Israel  /  Jerusalem Competition

Client: The National Library of Israel
Size: 100,000sqm
Program: Israel National Library
Computer Images: Studio Bonsai

"The moral goodness of the library is intimately connected to the conceptual values of the book: the library is its fortress, librarians are its guardians…" (Rem Koolhaas)

With modern media ruling our lives, the library is under threat. The sheer multiplicity of media and technology represent the loss of order, of tradition. The design of the National Library of Israel aims to blend the latest media with traditional library design. It defines our National Library as an institution that is not only responsible for storing books, but is also a vast storehouse of information. Here every conceivable type of media - new and old alike - will be prominently and equally presented. In an age of immediate access to information - at any time and any place - only simultaneous presentation of the different types of media and unified curation of their content will turn the library into a place of vibrancy.

The design is a manifestation of a concept that allows all the Library's visitors to carry out a wide range of activities and to get answers to a variety of needs relating to culture, leisure and social activity, as well as consumerism and trade. The space will express variety in numerous ways, from the movement of people through it, to its opening hours. Overall, the Library is designed to create a live, dynamic public texture. The new National Library will forge the missing link between government institutions and our central cultural, educational and academic bodies.

The modus operandi of the National Library - as dwelling place to one of the world's largest collections of books and as an ivory tower to research is exciting. However, the existing Library communicates very little of that energy to the outside world. The design of the new Library suggests ways in which to leverage this energy. Within, this is achieved by arranging the building to dramatic effect. Without, this is accomplished in a facade that spells out the Library's message to the city of Jerusalem.

To manage visitor movement, the new building is designed as a system of ramps that connect structural features to the topography and create a contiguous floor space. Movement is not restricted to vertical pier areas; instead, reading and research areas create a spiral movement of the bookshelves that house the books and rise up at a moderate incline that will streamline the flow of visitors and users.

To enable the Library to "speak" to the city, we have developed a facade that resembles a giant bookshelf. A stroll around the periphery of the building will allow people to see the books on offer, while at the same time inviting residents in to the reading rooms and the book storage areas. A public square facing onto Ruppin Avenue is to be created. The square will be used for outdoor events, conferences, receptions and be a focal point for activities for young people. Here, too, the intention is to merge indoor and outdoor activities. The new National Library will project openness towards life happening in the public space around it, while meeting its promise of providing convenient and alluring access to the public.

The building will contain within its folds experiential activities, and reading and research areas, along a vertical journey that transforms the National Library into an urban media center.

The Library will be well-suited to the needs, challenges and technological developments of the 21st century. It will curate Israeli and Jewish culture down the millennia and across all its myriad layers, providing the most up-to-date services to researchers and the wider public. It will fill a central role in the cultural and spiritual life of all the country's inhabitants and of the Jewish people in the Diaspora.