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The new Herta and Paul Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is located in the heart of Tel Aviv at 27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, set back from the street behind a large plaza. The Ministry of Justice stands to the east; the Beit Ariela Municipal Library and the Center for the Performing Arts are to the west. The site for the Amir Building is a triangular plot between the existing Museum complex, the Library and the Center for the Performing Arts.
The competition brief called for a building to house an installation of the Museum’s comprehensive collection of Israeli art, as well as its architecture and design galleries, drawings and prints galleries, photography study center, art library, new auditorium, a large gallery for temporary exhibitions and public amenities
Conceptually, the Amir Building is related to the Museum’s Brutalist main building (completed 1971; Dan Eytan, architect). At the same time, it also relates to the larger tradition of Modern architecture in Tel Aviv, as seen in the multiple vocabularies of Mendelsohn, the Bauhaus and the White City.The gleaming white parabolas of the façade are composed of 465 differently shaped flat panels made of pre-cast reinforced concrete. Achieving a combination of form and material that is unprecedented in the city, the façade translates Tel Aviv’s existing Modernism into a contemporary and progressive architectural language.
The design for the Amir Building arises directly from the challenge of providing several floors of large, neutral, rectangular galleries within a tight, idiosyncratic, triangular site. The solution is to “square the triangle” by constructing the levels on different axes, which deviate significantly from floor to floor. In essence, the building’s levels—three above grade and two below—are structurally independent plans stacked one on top of the other.
These levels are unified by the “Lightfall”: an 87-foot-high, spiraling, top-lit atrium, whose form is defined by subtly twisting surfaces that curve and veer up and down through the building. The complex geometry of the Lightfall’s surfaces (hyperbolic parabolas) connect the disparate angles of the galleries; the stairs and ramped promenades along them serve as the surprising, continually unfolding vertical circulation system; while the natural light from above is refracted into the deepest recesses of the half-buried building. Cantilevers accommodate the discrepancies between plans and provide overhangs at the perimeter.
In this way, the Amir Bulding combines two seemingly irreconcilable paradigms of the contemporary art museum: the museum of neutral white boxes, which provides optimal, flexible space for the exhibition of art, and the museum of spectacle, which moves visitors and offers a remarkable social experience. The Amir Building’s synthesis of radical and conventional geometries produces a new type of museum experience, one that is as rooted in the Baroque as it is in the Modern.
195,000 square feet (18,500 square meters), built on a triangular footprint of approximately 48,500 square feet (4,500 square meters)
$55 million (estimated)
Mordechai Omer, Director and Chief Curator
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Preston Scott Cohen, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
Preston Scott Cohen, Principal
Architectural competition: 2003
Design development and construction documents: 2005-06
Opening: October 2011
Israeli Art galleries 18,500 square feet
Architecture and Design galleries 7,200 square feet
Drawings and Prints galleries 2,500 square feet
Temporary exhibitions gallery 9,000 square feet
Photography study center 3,700 square feet
Art library 10,000 square feet
Auditorium 7,000 square feet
Restaurant 3,200 square feet
Offices 2,700 square feet
Pre-cast reinforced concrete (facades), cast-in-place concrete (Lightfall), glass, and steel (structural frame)
Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. was selected through a two-stage design competition organized under the direction of architect Jacob Grobman.
Preston Scott Cohen, principal in charge of design
Amit Nemlich, project architect; Tobias Nolte, Bohsung Kong, project assistants
Project Managers: CPM Construction Managment Ltd.
Structural Engineers: YSS Consulting Engineers Ltd., Dani Shacham
HVAC: M. Doron - I. Shahar & Co., Consulting Eng. Ltd.
Electrical: U. Brener - A. Fattal Electrical & Systems Engineering Ltd.
Lighting: Suzan Tillotson, New York
Find plans, elevations, sections and diagrams in the image gallery below. All drawings courtesy of Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.