Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum

By Kirsten Kiser

Yad Vashem, Moshe Safdie Architects
Tim Hursley
 

Situated on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem Valley, the Holocaust History Museum is the culmination of a ten-year redevelopment project of Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem — The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority — commissioned Moshe Safdie Architects to build a 74,000-square-meter Holocaust History Museum that replaces a previous history museum serves as the complex’s new core.

The building is bursting out toward the north… a volcanic eruption of light and life.
— Moshe Safdie

Most of the museum’s concrete-and-glass “main body” is hidden within the Mount of Remembrance — on which the Yad Vashem campus is situated — allowing little more than its 500-feet-long angular spine to convey a sense of its true scale.

At one end of the spine, closest to the museum’s entrance and to the visitor center, a large triangular prism cantilevers outward over the valley floor, seemingly floating into space.

At the opposite end, the museum’s low-slung, slender walls burst forth from the hillside to form the curved pair of wings that mark the museum’s exit.

A network of galleries, illuminated through the central skylight 60 feet above, are located along the museum’s partially submerged central walkway.

The galleries, hidden from view when entering the museum, present the Holocaust chapter by chapter, along its historical and thematic course as visitors proceed along the walkway.

At the end of the historical narrative the “Hall of Names” forms the final, dramatic display space.

The 30 feet high conical structure, open to the heavens, houses the personal records of millions of Jewish Holocaust victims. A reciprocal cone dug out of the natural bedrock, honors those victims whose names will never be known.

The new cultural, educational, and scholarly institution reaffirms Yad Vashem’s status as an important international center of Holocaust research and remembrance.

The masterplan greatly expands Yad Vashem’s permanent and temporary exhibition space and accommodates the campus’ growing attendance.

Safdie’s contributions to the revitalization program include the new Holocaust History Museum, the Holocaust Art Museum, the Exhibition Pavilion, the Visual Center, the Learning Center, a synagogue, a visitor center, parking area, and enhanced group access.

Safdie also designed the Children’s Memorial in 1987 and the Memorial to the Deportees in 1995.