Davidson Centre | מרכז דוידסון
Museum of the archeological site adjacent to Temple-Mount, Jerusalem
Competition Winner | Completed in 2001
The Davidson Centre is a museum located in the Old City of Jerusalem, within the archaeological excavation site at the Southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. Our encounter with this project, set in such a major site of Jerusalem, cast a sharp light on the complexities of form versus meaning, universal versus regional, and in particular – the tension between the site’s monumentality and our identity as architects and as Israelis.
We sought an architectural language that could strike a precise dialogue with the surroundings, the skyline of the walls, and the gravity of the ancient stone remains. A language that would form a coexistence with the limestone landscape and the inimitable Jerusalem light. In a location where each epoch had eradicated the marks of its precursors, we were looking for the possibility of reconciliation. We strove towards a state where the new observes the old with love and reverence, touching it and weaving through it, generating surprises and stimulating new situations.
As the work progressed it became apparent that the key to the design was in setting up a fine balance between completely submerging the structure underground, and marking new traces on the surface, hints of the subterranean levels underneath.
The process of design and execution flowed in cycles between site, office work-desk, archaeologists, and builders. This circular movement consisted of a continual search for strategies to adapt the 1500-year-old space to its new function. How does one transform an antique storage basement into an innovative museum, containing sophisticated logistic systems, built to accommodate large masses of visitors, and bound to the strictest safety regulations? All of these factors dictated endless casting about for the perfect marriage between old and new.
Thus, the transparent glazing enveloping the Hall of Arches magnifies the mass of the ancient walls; the use of ultra-lightweight material totally detached from the existing walls highlights the time-strata of the stone; the big roof’s geometry and technology, as they meet the remains of ancient structures rooted in the ground, amplify the plastic and organic nature of the walls.
The Davidson Centre is a place to experience in motion. We wished to provide the visitor with a well-orchestrated experience, a path of several stages: a dramatic entrance, a last glance at the world outside through the Oculus, and a plunge into the depth of the earth. The inner journey coincides with a loss of orientation which intensifies the experience. At the journey’s end, the visitor climbs back to the surface and sees the surroundings with new eyes.