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Replacement for Gehry's controversial Jerusalem project revealed

[First look] Israel’s Chuytin Architects has unveiled its competition-winning design to replace Frank Gehry’s ditched $250m Museum of Tolerance project in Jerusalem

Gehry decided to pull out of the controversial project, part of which would have sat on an ancient Muslim cemetery, early last year (see below).

The 15,000m² scheme is backed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center features a three-storey ‘wing’, housing a theatre and social rooms, and two storeys of underground exhibition space.

Click here for more information.

Previous story (AJ 19.01.2010)

Gehry leaves controversial Jerusalem project

Frank Gehry has pulled out of the controversial $250m ‘Museum of Tolerance’ project in Jerusalem

The practice’s decision follows heavy criticism of the project. The site chosen for the development was once part of an ancient Muslim cemetery and a petition from leading British architects (AJ 26.11.08) condemned the proposed Museum as a ‘blow to peaceful coexistence’.

The divisive development has also come under heavy criticism from local groups, US rabbis, Israeli scholars, cultural figures and orthodox leaders.

Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement, and Jerusalem Arab families whose ancestors are buried in the Mamilla Cemetery, had petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to block the project. However, in November 2008, the high court gave clearance for construction. It argued that no objections were raised in 1960 when a parking lot was placed over a small part of the cemetery, which was in continuous use since at least the 13th century up to the early 20th.

Abe Hayeem is the chair of Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, an organisation campaigning to stop the Jerusalem-based development.

‘Although Gehry’s office has not given a reason it is obvious that, at last, they have succumbed to the pressure,’ he said. ‘They have worked out that it would not be a good building to add to the firms’ work portfolio, for being too controversial, and that it would also inflame Muslim sentiments in Jerusalem and around the world.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • It was a good idea - a "museum" of tolerance between the 3 monotheistic religions, but missed the point completely in selection of the site on the edge of the Mamilla cemetery., generating a lot of intolerance instead.
    Truth be said, it is not easy to find a site in Jerusalem that will be acceptable to all 3 faiths and the archaeologists!

    Also, it should be noted that on the other side of the Mamilla muslim cemetery, stands the Palace Hotel (now being re-developed as the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria), built on a de-consecrated part of the same cemetery in 1929, by an Arab developer. This was acceptable to the Wakf (muslim religious council) then.

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  • The Wiesenthal Center has argued that in the 1920s Muslim authorities in Jerusalem authorized the removal of bones from the same cemetery to allow the construction of the Palace Hotel. But this claim has been disputed by the former rector of Hebrew University, Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, a leading expert on Jerusalem’s geographical history. The whole issue was that this building, rather than creating real tolerance, was to house the history of Zionism and the building the Israeli state. It would have been a symbol of Israel's hegemony over the Palestinians, and the erasure of their history.This is especially inflammatory, at a time when East Jerusalem is being swallowed up by religious settlers, with the intent of transfering out Palestinians from their neighbourhoods,ejecting them from their houses to prevent East Jerusalem (which is illegally annexed) from becoming the shared capital of a Palestinian state.
    Abe Hayeem

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