Tel Aviv Museum of Art

PHOTOS: Amit Geron

Here’s one for geometry buffs: How do you square a triangle? Preston Scott Cohen architects managed to do so with the design and construction of the Herta and Paul Amir building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Built on a triangular plot, the architects had to find a way of providing several floors of large, neutral, rectangular galleries within a tight idiosyncratic triangular site. Their solution? To “square the triangle” by constructing the levels on different axes, which deviate significantly from floor to floor. In essence, the building’s levels are structurally independent planes stacked on top of each other.

These levels are unified by the ‘Lightfall’; an 87-foot-high, spiraling, top-lit atrium, the form of which is defined by subtly twisting surfaces that curve and veer up and down the building. The complex geometry of the Lightfall’s surfaces connects the disparate angles of the galleries. The stairs and ramped promenades along them serve as a continually unfolding vertical circulation system, while the natural light from above is refracted into the deepest recesses of the half-buried building. Cantilevers accommodate the discrepancies between plans and provide overhangs at the perimeter.

Through this the Amir Building combines two seemingly irreconcilable paradigms of the contemporary art museum: the museum of neutral white boxes - which provides optimal, flexible space for the exhibition of art - and the museum of spectacle, which moves visitors and offers a remarkable social experience. The Amir Building’s synthesis of radical and conventional geometries produces a new type of museum experience, one that is as rooted in the Baroque as it is in the Modern.

Conceptually, the Amir Building is related to the Museum’s Brutalist main building (completed in 1971 by Dan Eytan Architects). At the same time, it also relates to the larger tradition of Modern architecture in Tel Aviv, as seen in the multiple vocabularies of Mendelsohn, the Bauhaus, and the White City.

The gleaming white parabolas of the façade are composed of 465 differently shaped flat panels made of pre-cast reinforced concrete. Achieving a combination of form and material that is unprecedented in the city, the façade translates Tel Aviv’s existing Modernism into a contemporary and progressive architectural language.

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