006 National Library, Jerusalem

CompositionProun GBA 4

In the age of digitization, the library’s role is changing. We’re witnessing a paradigm shift, a gradual transformation from a place of acquiring knowledge to a place of exchanging knowledge. The library changes its civic figure, all the more in the case of the National Library and in specifically in a city like Jerusalem.

The library’s new building will make knowledge accessible, it will democratize it by opening the Library’s collections and resources to as broad and diverse population as possible. Rather than an ivory tower, the library will be built as an open and welcoming space for the general public.


The library is envisioned as a compact building in which each programmatic element is articulated according to the needs of its distinct function. It is a building that acts as one harmonious structure, all of whose parts serve the same vision, and integrate well with each other, while giving specific character and appropriate response to the specific needs of each of its components.

The main entrance of the library is located at the 780 level and it can be accessed from all sides of the building, thus creating an accessible and welcoming building. It sits on a podium that connects seamlessly to the landscape. The Educational and Cultural functions are placed above the entrance, allowing them to be accessed also when other functions of the library are closed.

The top two levels contain the core of the library – the research and study functions. The third floor, that contains the open shelf and the main reading room, cantilevers above the main plaza and opens up spectacular views over the city and the surrounding landscape. Its roof functions as an open air terrace that offers a break from the prolonged working sessions and creates added value – additional social spaces providing an opportunity to interact. Indoor and outdoor spaces are interconnected.

We see sustainability not as an effort that is invested in effect but one that forms an integral part of the design process. The composition of the building is organized in a resource-wise method – the building shades itself, thus fits the Israeli weather. All elevations are protected by a series of vertical shades while in each direction the relationship of the horizontal sun protection system is according to its orientation and the hour of the day. It introduces a variety of spaces bathing in natural light and air and creates the possibility for working alone and for communicating with like-minded people. The central circulation space acts also as a light well and ventilation shaft introducing fresh air and light into the building and creating an exhaust – circulating hot air out of the building.


Circulation spaces are the social heart of the building. We envision a series of “majestic” stairs that form a continuous circulation path and a focal point, which enables easy orientation. This path connects all the different functions as well as its various users and visitors. It creates a true melting pot, a place for circulation of people, but also of knowledge. A place of where new knowledge is created by interaction, inspiration out of encounter. An infrastructure for the exchange of knowledge.

The building conveys a message of multiculturalism – it merges gracefully with the spectacular views and contact with the important sites in the area. The Library Building respects them and is proud to stand among them. It forms part of the ensemble that includes the Knesset and the other cultural, educational and governmental buildings in its vicinity. The Library Building is a vivid addition in its surroundings It is easily recognizable but doesn’t overshadow its surroundings It is iconic yet modest, perfectly suited to its surroundings, to Jerusalem and to Israel as a whole, impressive and elegant but not grandiose. It creates a building with a strong and clear identity while still being abstract in order to give the freedom for different people and cultures to find in it different meanings.

Jerusalem, Israel
40,000m2 including: Reading rooms, Education facilities, Public programs, Library Operation, Underground stacks, Parking.
International Competition, Finalist
Zarhy Architects, S. Ben-Abraham (Structure)
Date: January 05, 2013