ODA shares its design for the Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ in Jerusalem

The New York-based firm combines contextual connections and a melding of purpose and form in the design of the new headquarters of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Dec 11, 2020

A sculptural form comprising landscaped rooftops, meandering pathways, public plazas and various intimate inner courtyards take centerstage in the proposed concept by ODA for the new headquarters of the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem. The New York-based firm presented its vision of the cultural centre at an invited competition recently.

The building and its context | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
The building and its context Image: Secchi Smith, Courtesy of ODA

The project is located between the Israel Museum, the Israeli Supreme Court, the future site of the National Library, the Knesset, and the Hebrew University. As per ODA, the new Academy is meant to be an orientation point for the entire cultural district, a place for worlds, languages, and history to collide and meld together, as Israel has been for centuries.

The building is visualised as a five-storey sculptural complex that captures captivating views of its surrounding | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
The building is visualised as a five-storey sculptural complex that captures captivating views of its surrounding Image: Secchi Smith, Courtesy of ODA

The proposed concept unveils as a five-storey complex with two underground levels and three floors making the superstructure. The building is visualised as a sculpture sitting at the centre of a park and flowing in all directions. “The building’s form, like language itself, becomes an important function in connecting a diverse group of visitors and citizens alike,” mentions the firm.

  • Evolution of form | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
    Evolution of form Image: Courtesy of ODA
  • Site Plan| Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
    Site Plan Image: Courtesy of ODA

Taking cues from the context, the proposed concept translates the curve of the adjacent Stephan Weiz Street in plan and reacts to the rectilinear forms of the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens and the National Library in three dimensions.

The inner layout seamlessly weaves workspaces and open areas under one roof. The programme is categorised in three layers – the academy, common spaces, and the exhibition – that wrap around a 56-foot high central atrium.

The spaces within the building are wrapped around a 56-foot high central atrium | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
The spaces within the building are wrapped around a 56-foot high central atrium Image: Courtesy of ODA

The core private space of the building is in the form of the academy that houses offices, a library and an archival centre, designed with direct access to the other two core areas of the building. Originally established by the Israeli government in 1953 as the official institution for scholarship on the Hebrew language, it publishes an official Hebrew dictionary as well as creates new words to keep up with the contemporary context.

  • Floor Plans | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
    Floor Plans Image: Courtesy of ODA
  • Section | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
    Section Image: Courtesy of ODA

The common space to be used directly by the academy staff and public constitutes of classrooms, auditorium, conference room and the event programming area. These spaces are laid on the ground and the lower level.

Reception lobby surrounding green courtyards | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
Reception lobby surrounding green courtyards Image: Secchi Smith, Courtesy of ODA

The museum is the core public area within the complex, designed to expand visitors’ familiarity with the Hebrew language and to make them understand its importance, uniqueness, and impact on personal identity and the society. It is spread on the ground and first floor.

A landscaped rooftop reveals itself in elevation. Populated by meandering pathways and multiple gardens oriented at different levels, the roof is designed to become a natural extension of the neighbourhood park.

Plaza leading to a beautifully landscaped route | Academy of the Hebrew Language HQ | ODA | STIRworld
Plaza leading to a beautifully landscaped route Image: Secchi Smith, Courtesy of ODA

The access to the building is visualised via two major plazas that are oriented at the north and south ends. Taking route of any of these plazas from the ground level will lead one to two distinct vantage points that offer majestic views of the surrounding.

ODA’s design is meant as a translation, where quite literally the façade design in Jerusalem stone expresses the linear arrangement of the Hebrew phrase that references The Tower of Babel and its myth of the origin of multiple languages. 

The culmination of contextual connections as well as the melding of purpose and form in the proposed architecture seeks to make the academy a truly unifying force.

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