National Library of Israel
Project Title
National Library of Israel
The site for the National Library of Israel is a prominent part of central Jerusalem, just south of the Knesset, connecting governance, culture, and education in the national precinct. The competition design conceptualizes the library as an extroverted, inviting building, with the library’s operations and workings open to public view and interaction. Part of the public realm, the main collection features fast-stacks in the center of the library and is visible from all directions. The collection forms a 50-foot-high base, which supports reading rooms above. This location creates an efficient flow of materials and, more significantly, makes the national cultural storehouse a major element of the library experience. A visitor’s loop—incorporating permanent and temporary exhibits, the auditorium, seminar rooms, and operational areas—provides glimpses of conservation, binding, and other library work without disturbing their operations.

Three floors of reading rooms at the library’s center offer privacy within community, and individual carrels at the perimeter offer views overlooking the city. A grand public reading room, crowning the building on the top floor, opens onto a reading garden.

The library structure and systems draw on local tradition and contemporary technology using a system of precast concrete inlaid with Jerusalem stone. The combination celebrates the color and texture of time-honored materials and minimizes waste and assembly time. The library’s buoyant roof—a thin shell steel structure enclosed by a white fritted glass and ceiling panel sandwich—filters light and acts as an acoustic absorber. The translucent roof, extensive glazing, deep light shelves, and open interior spaces allow daylight to permeate every part of the building. Extensive courtyards, gardens, and terraces, which are synonymous with the cultural heritage of the city, add to the importance of the library as a setting for public life.

Images on this page: 1 View with Knesset beyond; 2 Elevation sketch; 3 Section sketch

Jerusalem, Israel

between 2011 and 2012
Completion Date
Client: National Library of Israel;

Size: 25,000 sq m (270,000 sq ft)

Competition: Won

Project Type
Safdie Architects
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