Herta and Paul Amir Building
The Herta and Paul Amir Building was inaugurated in 2011. It is, to date, the most recent addition to the Museum’s buildings, and complements the city’s central cultural complex. Its distinctive design, by American architect Prof. Preston Scott Cohen, in collaboration with Israeli project architect Amit Nemlich, drew considerable interest from the moment it was completed.
In the decades since the inauguration of the Main Building, the Museum’s collection has grown substantially — as has the population of art-lovers — while the Museum’s exhibition and operations areas remained virtually unchanged. Prof. Mordechai Omer, director of the Museum from 1995 to 2011, worked diligently to extend it into a lot that was allocated for this purpose by one of the Museum’s former directors, Marc Scheps. In October 2011, following an international architecture competition and an international fundraising effort, the Museum’s new wing — the Herta and Paul Amir Building — was inaugurated. It is a spectacular and groundbreaking example of early 21st-century museum architecture.
The designers of the building faced many challenges, including the triangular shape of the lot, a limitation on the height of the building, and an artistic and operational need for spacious and accessible display spaces. This forced them to be especially creative, and the result is a unique and surprising building.
From the outside, the Amir Building looks like a broad, horizontal structure, when in fact it is a vertical one with three subterranean levels. The building’s envelope is an Origami-like surface that seems to fold at various angles, in a geometrically complex fashion. It is made of 465 panels of polished concrete that were created on site. The interior consists of an array of spaces built around a vertical “light fall” that serves as the building’s main axis. This vertical central space is a 26.5 meter-high atrium extending from a skylight in the roof, that lets in natural light, down to the foundation level. The walls of this “light fall” are made of concrete screens alternating with openings, in a manner that creates a spiral circulation center between the various levels and galleries, and allows visitors to orientate themselves within the building’s interior. In addition, the “light fall” is a special display space in its own right, which allows for installations suited to its particular dimensions and display possibilities.
The galleries of the upper levels house permanent exhibitions of Israeli art. There are also dedicated galleries for photography, drawing, design, contemporary art, and more. In addition to these expansive display areas, the Amir Building also includes a large performance auditorium, study workshops, lecture rooms, administrative and operating spaces, an entrance foyer and ticket offices, a restaurant, and a cafeteria.
These days, the Amir Building and the Main Building serve together as the pulsing heart of the Museum and a key part of Tel Aviv’s cultural complex.