Supreme Court of Israel
Project Title
Supreme Court of Israel
Alternate Titles
Rabbinical Supreme High Court
Poised on the Jerusalem’s highest hill and on axis with the Knesset Parliament building, the competition design for the Supreme Court responds to the Israeli tradition of justice expressed in Psalm 85: “Truth rises from the earth, and justice reflects from heaven.”

Cut 16 feet into the ground and shielded from cold winter winds, a square compound is divided into a triangular city forecourt to the south and a court building to the north. At 40-foot intervals across the protected public court, golden limestone pillars reach 52 feet into the air, inscribed with legal teachings from scriptures, holy books, and the annals of world justice. This forest of pillars creates a shaded entry grove, a place for contemplation.

Visitors enter the court building through a public hall in which the solid pillars of the forecourt become hollow clusters of concrete columns that support paired beams. With trellises overhead, an interior pattern of light, shade, and living plants evokes the Jewish sukkah, a place of public gathering.

Balanced as in the rule of law, the building’s grand court acts as a corner fulcrum for two wings of secondary courtrooms. Two intersecting glass roofs cover the courtrooms, and changing light conditions shift the roofs’ apparent relationships. With partial sunlight the outer shell dominates, reflecting glints of the sun, cloud movements, and the sky. In early morning and late afternoon the two roofs appear collaged. At night light from within the court illuminates the inner shell. Rising over the evening skyline, the lit courtrooms join the light of justice with the lamps of government and religion, embodied in the light of the Knesset, mosques, churches, and synagogues.

Images on this page: 1 Plan view of physical model; 2 Night view of physical model showing courtroom roofs, elevation sketch; 3 Site plan, site section; 4 Site section sketches; 5 Interior sketch

Jerusalem, Israel

between 1985 and 1986
Completion Date
Client: The Rothschild Foundation

Competition: Lost

Safdie Architects
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