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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Museum of Tolerance, Jerusalem, Israel

Gehry Partners dropped from Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem project
For six years Gehry has been set to stamp his illustrious mark on one of the most historic cities in the world with his design for the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem but following a wave of protest Gehry Partners has been dropped as architect for the scheme. A collaborative statement issued to WAN by the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Founder Rabbi Marvin Heir and Frank Gehry advises that a unanimous decision was taken by the Board of Trustees to redesign the Museum to 'reflect today’s world economic realities'.

“This is the right decision for us,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Center’s Founder and Dean. “The good news, however, is that the project is moving forward; we have a fantastic site in the heart of Jerusalem and we can now refocus all of our energies on bringing to Jerusalem and the people of Israel, a project of crucial significance to its future. Unfortunately, Frank Gehry will not be the architect on the project. Frank has done an amazing job and has worked with us at every step of the way to realize our dreams. We will shortly name the new architect for the redesign.”

Frank Gehry added: “I greatly value my relationship with Rabbi Marvin Hier and admire his determination to establish a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem that will serve as the embodiment of human respect and compassion. Unfortunately, our staff and resources are committed to other projects around the globe, and thus I will not be able to participate in the redesign effort. Contrary to a published report quoting my partner Craig Webb, this parting has nothing whatsoever to do with perceived political sensitivities. The Museum of Tolerance project is vitally important, and I have no doubt that Rabbi Hier will create a visitor experience that will bring people of all faiths closer together.”

The project has been plagued by fury from within Jerusalem which halted the project for two years, and a petition against the project following planning approval in 2008.

Several well-known architects petitioned against the decision, which would have seen Gehry's flamboyant design bound for permanence on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery, claiming the plans were a 'blow to peaceful co-existence'. Will Alsop, Charles Jencks, Richard MacCormac and Eva Jiricna all signed the petition which read: "The site in Mamilla, near Jerusalem's Independence Park, is on disputed burial land taken over by the Israel’s Land Administration in 1948, whose ownership is claimed by the Islamic authorities.

"To pursue this divisive project that will include "two museums, a library-education center, a conference centre and a 500-seat performing arts theatre, would seem highly insensitive, a statement of Israel's hegemony over the Palestinians, rather than any expression of 'tolerance'. All the architecture in the world cannot engender harmony on the basis of trampling over people’s rights and history. It is inflaming passions in an already combustible Middle East, and will push any peace accord further off the horizon."

The petition went to the high court but was over-ruled on the basis that in 1960, no objection was received for the construction of a parking lot on the same plot of land. The new architect is due to be named shortly, according to the statement.

Niki May Young
News Editor

architecture NOW

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