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SO Architecture | Natural History museum

Concept & Competition So Architecture | Natural History museum

So Architecture | Natural History museumThe Urban Context

The National Quarter (Kiryat Haleom in Hebrew) was planned as a spacious public park integrated with modest government buildings. In time, the complex developed into a space of symbolic buildings divided by wide roads. Citizens avoid the park, which lacks the urban character as well as the fences – material and virtual – that cut the public off from the government buildings. The new building, located at the entrance to the cultural complex of the National Quarter, represents an attempt to return the park to the citizens by defining it as a vibrant urban space. But what is urbanity in the immediate context of the quarter? In most cases, efforts to create urbanity draw upon concepts such as street, square, boulevard, yard, commerce, and society. In our view, these concepts require urban typologies that are foreign to the character of this space. However, in our search for a new urban option we ruled out perpetuation of the existing separation between the iconic structures and the open space and insisted upon incorporating both.

So Architecture | Natural History museumOur proposal for the Science Museum building offers a typology that combines the field (the park) and the object (the museum) within an urban system; this duality is the essence of the proposal. This approach reflects an attempt to offer Jerusalem an airy urbanity, a break from the physical and symbolic density. We believe that utilizing the building to structure the open urban space will help the residents of the capital “make friends” with the government buildings and create a positive tension between the citizens and their institutions. Therefore, we decided to locate the park at the entrance to the quarter on the Ruppin Boulevard side. The proposed building will protrude as a series of small single-story buildings in the center of the land plot, in a way that hints at the structure without interfering with the central presence of the park, which is opposite the coffee shop that serves visitors passing by. These visitors, who did not buy a ticket to the museum, are invited to pass by the front roofs of the museum, experience the theme gardens planted above it, and stroll through the new urban terrace that overlooks the national cultural complex. This stroll also enables a glimpse of the museum courtyards and the galleries dispersed along it. Thus the park visitors participate in the museum experience and also enjoy the new public resource.

So Architecture | Natural History museumBuilding typology

The design of the building emphasizes the desire to create an open, absorbent, breathing building – the type of building that communicates with the environment, and not a closed structure with fences and a guard. Therefore, we conceived of a building whose external appearance would be restrained and modest, on the one hand blending into the environment, and on the other hand enveloping a flexible, multifaceted, and dynamic structure, with complex reciprocity between the interior and interior, the interior and the exterior – a virtuosi building. The building typology imitates the form of Swiss cheese with green holes. The size and location of the green holes varies among the levels. On Level –12.00, the archeology level, the outside is actually the main aspect, while on the highest stories, the holes in the mass are more refined. The exterior form of the building is based on a central geometric and symbolic concept that incorporates all of the design principles required by the overall plan, and creates a thread connecting and unifying them, with the possibility of execution in several stages. The building is organized in the plan, cross-section, and façade as building bricks laid upon one another.

So Architecture | Natural History museumThis is a metaphor of the process of the development of interrelations between humans and their environment and of the process of evolutionary creation. Breaking down the mass in a cross-section, plan and façade creates a structure in which it is possible to subtract and add parts without interfering with the architectural wholeness and the symbolism of the building. The size and arrangement of the basic building blocks (the basic module) of the plan, the cross-section, and the façade of the building ensures maximal flexibility for presentation and the possibility of construction in stages.

So Architecture | Natural History museumOrganization

The building is organized in three sections of half-stories, thus ensuring an inner interactive and flexible space for exhibitions with different atmospheres and needs. The building is composed of meta-galleries, offices, a conference center, study areas, labs, storerooms, rooms for setting up exhibitions, a parking lot, and a planetarium. The design enables maximal accessibility to the nature museum and the science museum. It enables separate operation of different parts of the building, such as, for instance, the planetarium, the conference center, and the coffee shop that faces Ruppin Boulevard. The organization of functions was determined by the required lighting conditions, functions requiring natural light have been organized on the upper levels and as you descend, the lower levels accommodate functions that require less light and more controlled lighting.

So Architecture | Natural History museumInternal movement

We consider the movement within the museum as the core principle. The course of the museum movement is characterized as a linear path between fields, within a system of meta-galleries, some on an incline and some flat. The movement was organized as a central, linear system, with different interactions and options. Upon arriving at Level –12.00, an escalator takes the visitors up to the roof of the museum – to the outside exhibition gallery. From the roof exhibitions one descends to the astrophysics gallery and from there to the exit/entrance. The movement plan creates a situation in which the movement on the roof is part of the formal museum path; we consider this very important.

So Architecture | Natural History museumRoofs

Some of the green roofs of the building constitute a continuation of the park and some constitute a section of the internal movement, as a platform for the theme gardens. The underlying idea of the theme gardens is characterization of the landscapes of Israel, achieved by dividing the roof into different areas each representing a unique landscape. The result is a roof that constitutes a pattern of the landscapes of Israel – an experiential and physical catalogue of scenery. The roofs on the park level are accessible to visitors to the park and enable a museum experience without entering the museum.

So Architecture | Natural History museumThe Museum of Nature and Science in Jerusalem – The Climatic Approach

The Museum of Nature and Science was designed in accordance with the sustainable planning approach, which takes the environment into consideration and is based on Israeli Standard 5281 for Sustainable Buildings –Public Buildings. The strategies that guided the planning: In the summer – Natural ventilation of the outside areas of the museum and cross-ventilation of the building at night will be made possible. To improve the thermal comfort of the visitors, moisture will be added by means of a system of water channels and pools passing from the outside to and through the buildings. This water system, in addition to contributing greatly to cooling the building, also serves the recycling of grey water for use by the building and in some places also to refract the sunlight and bring dispersed light into the museum spaces. Another main strategy in the museum plan is the utilization of the thermal mass of the underground building and construction with stone, in addition to nighttime ventilation. The thermal mass cools off during the night and maintains the relatively low temperature in the interior spaces during the day. The green roofs protect the building from overheating in the summer and help prevent islands of heat. The shading and lighting of the museum are achieved in two ways: on the lower level, the geometry of the building creates shading, and at the other openings, lighting shelves are planned to refract the direct sunlight and entry of dispersed light into the spaces.

So Architecture | Natural History museumIn the winter – The thermal mass will be used to heat the building. The building heats up during the day and maintains a relatively high temperature during the evening and the early morning hours. Thus it is possible to reduce the use of air conditioners to heat during the coldest hours. The outside areas are planned so that some are comfortable for being outside in the winter, as well as blocking the undesirable eastern winds. Correct shading of the openings allows penetration of the low winter sun into the areas of movement and lobbies of the museum.

Lighting – As part of the planning process, we analyzed the lighting in order to make sure that despite it being partially underground, the building still allows the daylight into the movement areas and central lobbies of the project. This will reduce the need for artificial lighting. In the exhibition areas, economical lighting systems will be installed, based on LED light bulbs and the guidelines of the Israeli green construction standard


So Architecture | Natural History museumIn summary, it can be said that the building is founded mainly on principles of passive bioclimatic planning, based on correct design and correct utilization of the architectural and climatic situation to reduce the burden on the air conditioning systems required for a public building of this type by about half of that necessary in a museum building that is not designed in this manner. This approach to green construction arose both from the vision of the project as a sustainable project that economizes on energy and minimizes the damage to the environment, and on the vision of a nature museum that operates synergistically and harmoniously with its natural environment, maintaining mutual respect between the elements and nature.


So Architecture | Natural History museumThe Watercourse

The watercourse winds through the building in a fascinating spatial manner. It serves as a source of natural light through the water, as a reservoir of grey water, as a desalinization pool, as a waterfall and as a water accumulation pool. The route of the water is abundant in riverbank vegetation typical of a moist habitat, providing natural purification of the grey water that comes from the Science Museum and Nature Museum building.
The waterfall into the underground garden area is a focal point in the water system. This area has three main functions:
1. It is an aesthetic museum attraction, constituting a landmark seen from the interior and exterior of the building.
2. When the water falls, it enables cooling of the accumulated water. The wind that comes from the southwest through the building cools the shaded water by as much as 6 degrees. Thus, when the water enters the building it serves as a cooling element. The pool that gathers water at the bottom of the waterfall provides an example for explaining about the bodies of water pools in the southern rivers.
3. When the water falls from a height of 15 meters, the waterfall turns a hydroelectric turbine that creates nearly enough energy to return the water to the beginning of the cycle and complete the circulation of the water.

So Architecture | Natural History museumThe reservoir of grey water is rich in water vegetation typical of the Hula Valley. In this area there is a three-dimensional path that passes through the vegetation, where it is possible to explain the character of the vegetation and wildlife to the visitors. Natural lighting through the water – The presence of water in the interior spaces of the museum is felt by the penetration or natural passage light through the river flowing on the roof. This enables observation of floating vegetation from a different angle, explanation of the roots of the plants and of their purifying function.

The natural water accumulation pool next to the entrance to the planetarium serves as a drainage pool for wide spaces – a scope of about 8000 square meters. The water that accumulates is used to soften the grey water of the building. One of the outside classrooms is located in the water accumulation pool; it is equipped to explain to students about animals that grow in water pools of this type and the process of rainwater accumulation.

The water flows on a moderate slope along the exhibition ramp of the second meta-gallery. Flowing in the space, it constitutes a climatic factor and adds moisture, improving the climatic comfort level. Along the path there are explanations and installations that demonstrate the flow of rivers, the law of communicating vessels and more. At the end of the exhibition ramp and the inside river accompanying it, there is the desalination pool. The pool operates on renewable energy and provides a demonstration of desalination systems and explanation of different methods of desalination.

The wadi
We created a sort of canyon (wadi) between the building and the mountain. In addition to being an impressive visual attraction, the canyon serves as the base of the waterfall, a climbing wall, a grove and the path of the outer coating of stones, as well as a place from which light can enter the different sections of the museum.


So Architecture | Natural History museumSummary

The planning of the building was inspired by a high level of urban and environmental awareness, required in any contemporary spatial project, and all the more so in a place intended to clarify and highlight the complex and multifaceted relationship between humans and nature. The decision to integrate into the patterns of the existing space and follow its rules while empowering and strengthening the open space led us to the choice of a basement building that leads to the row of museums through the park. Instead of a forced commercial character, we propose a green character that draws and invites people to the entrances to the museum, planetarium, and parking lot. We believe that intervention in the site by means of a built-in park will create a contiguous green space from the park to the Israel Museum, through the Nature Museum site, passing between the National Library to be built opposite it and the Ministry of Finance, to the Rose Garden across from the Knesset building. Thus a meaningful system will be created – a democratic space that invites the citizens of the city and the state to the representative space of Israel. In our view, a building that negotiates between field and object may promote spatial negotiation between the citizens and their elected officials.

Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Architects: SO Architecture | Schwartz Besnosoff, Gaby Schwartz, Shachar Lulav Oded Rozenkier
Project Team: Gaby Schwartz, Shachar Lulav, Oded Rozenkier, Alejandro Fajnerman, Levav Shachar, Tomer Nachshon, Noa Hefez, Noy Lazarovic, Omry Schwartz, Boaz Rotem
Client: City of Jerusalem, Jerusalem Found, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Area: 30,000 sqm
Year: 7/ 2012
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  • Nadine

    Can we have translations for the pictures please?

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