Bezalel Academy

Bezalel Academy

Bezalel Academy

Place: Jerusalem, Israel

Year: 2007

Type: International Ideas Competition


Architects: Eirini Androutsopoulou, Elisavet Petsatodi, Aristotelis Spirou

Site’s Area: 9.182 m2

Building’s Area: 19.057 m2


Greek Architecture Yearbook  2010 (Domes)

Edition of the 6th Panhellenic Exhibition of Architecture (Walls)

Edition of the 6th Biennale of Greek Architects


6th Biennale of Greek Architects

Metropolitan Expo, Athens

Walls 6th Panhellenic Exhibition of Architecture

The proposed scheme deals with the concept of the boundary between the building and the public space. The campus functions as an open amphitheatre. It is a gesture towards the city, a pair of palms, which is lowered towards the center of the public plaza, reinforcing the view towards the cathedral.

Bezalel Academy was established in 1906 as the “Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts”, it is one of Israel’s leading academies in its field. The Academy organised an open two-stage architectural competition for the relocation of the campus to the historic center of Jerusalem.

The relocation of the campus

This action presents not merely a physical move, but a cultural shift through which Bezalel aims to participate in the life of the city and to bring the academy closer to the general public, who will have easy access to exhibitions and events conducted on campus, as well as informal meetings with the students and teachers. Bezalel Academy is a creative and intellectual base for its students and faculty, and will be open for use 24 hours a day.

The site context of the new Academy

The vacant building site is approximately 9,182 m2 and
is in the center of the City of Jerusalem, about 300m from the historic Old City and within the area referred to as the ‘Russian Compound’. It sits on the small hill located on a prominent North-South ridge, with Northern and Eastern Views overlooking the city. Jerusalem Municipality has contributed 2,767 m2 of designated Public Open Space to the building site. The objective is to include a designated public space in the design and locate its western edge at the same grade as the cathedral (798.00) so as to visually extend the open space around it and link it in a substantial way with the new building of the Academy. This way, the design deals with the building and the public space as a whole.

Two rather contrasting parameters determine the design process· the demand for a barrier-free design for the public space and the programmatic demand for limited access to the Academy. In addition, the design should enhance the Academy’s opportunity to host events and activities that include public participation, to stimulate increased communication between student, designers and the community at large, and to engender a culture of diffusion that encourages spontaneous exhibits of student’s works, display galleries and cultural events.

View Corridor

The City of Jerusalem has been developed throughout history with emphasis on viewpoints, and view corridors, and the prominence of the cathedral warrants the creation of such a view corridor to the East.
Nominally centered on the major axis of the cathedral, the corridor is to have a minimum width of 45 meters.


Jerusalem Stone:
According to zoning, the principal building material of the façade will be chiseled or dressed Jerusalem stone, and up to a maximum of 40% of the façade surface may be glass, metal, and/or architectural concrete.

The boundary between the building and the public space

The proposed scheme deals with the concept of the boundary between the building and the public space. The campus functions as an open amphitheatre. It is a gesture towards the city, a pair of palms, which is lowered towards the center of the public plaza, reinforcing the view towards the cathedral. The gradual increase of height allows for a “stepped” inclined roof for each side of the campus that will be open to the public throughout the year. Thus, the plaza becomes revitalized, allowing for people to pause, rest, gather or walk through this new urban landscape.
This artificial ground, consisting of the formulating surface of the building and the square is the base for the proposal. In order to redefine the common rupture between the verticality of the building and the horizontality of the square, the proposal uses the ground as an hybrid, transitional landscape.

Sun light – The building skin is treated as a filter

Daylight in Jerusalem (Latitude 31.783N) is intense and highly reflective. This condition creates a dramatic contrast between shadow and direct light. A besic design issue is therefore the manipulation of light.
In the proposal, sun light in used as a main design tool and as a means of orienation.

Intense Jerusalem sunlight comes into the building in two ways: Through the rupture of the building surface and through the dense drilling of it’s skin.
The intense folding of the surface enables for the creation of the two atriums and an almost dramatic contrast between the shaded and the illuminated areas. The resulting microclimate of the interior is one of the major objectives of the proposal. Also, at a second stage, parts of the skin are being drilled, mainly above the two massive amphitheatres-studios. The steps used for climbing on the roof create the rhythmic uncovered slots, which softly enlighten the interior and result to the smooth diffusion of light.

Light leads gradually the visitor from public space to more isolated areas. A series of rifts on the building shell which are arranged so that they follow the north-south orientaion lead from the square to the interior of the building.

Folding surface tensions
The programmatic requirements

Each department (Arxhitecture, Industrial design, Fine arts, Cinema) is represented by a different prismatic volume, allowing for slits between them. The space between each department acts as a funnel that attracts & distributes visitors within each building. These funnels end up to the atriums, reaching up from ground level to maximum height. Paths of light & transparent internal elevations allow for unobstructed movement from one department to the other.